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Drawing for Dummies

February 6, 2012

With this hair, the course of my life could've changed completely.

In my 2nd grade class, there were just a few key things that would make a kid cool.  And I’m talking legitimately, board-certified, officially-stamped cool:

1.)  The best stuff

2.)  The longest hair

3.)  The fastest at running

4.)  The best at drawing

Now let me show you how I measured up.

1.)  Stuff.  My parents were the Ingalls.  They called sidewalk chalk “toys.”  And my mom made a backyard water slide out of gardening tarp.  It’s safe to say that in a three-way runoff against the kid with the trampoline and the kid with the pinball machine, the kid with the gardening tarp didn’t fare well.

2.)  Hair.  My hair was the consistency of dried seagrass.  It tangled if I so much as roller skated too fast.  Chronic knots under the top layer assured I’d be forever bobbed.  And my mom made certain it could be quickly sheared in the case of head lice.

3.)  Speed.  I know it sounds like bragging, but I was the second fastest girl in my class.  I just couldn’t seem to beat Jodi the Gazelle.  While I had a good showing during preliminary recess runs, I choked during our field day race (when it really counts) and came in second.  And second didn’t mean diddly.  It meant the adorable Charlie wouldn’t even look at me.  He was the fastest boy.  Naturally, the fastest boy liked the fastest girl.  I don’t make up these rules, that’s just the way it is.  It’s like Darwinian, it’s like race horse siring.

4.)  Drawing.  Here is where my coolness manifested.  I could draw like none
other.  I could draw like the wind!  No, really, I drew the wind as a cloud with puffy cheeks blowing on a kite.  It was brilliant.  But the fact that I drew that, along with excellent people in colonial garb, didn’t really matter.

Because what really set you apart back then had nothing to do with original artwork.  Rather, a kid could really go places if he could mass-produce replicas of cartoon characters.

Bugs Bunny, Papa Smurf, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man or, in my case, Garfield.

I drew Garfield so well that Bil Keane might’ve slapped Jim Davis across the face out of spite for his total irrelevance.  (Which would’ve been rather pot-calling-kettle-black of Bil Keane.)

Jodi the Gazelle never hesitated to say I didn’t draw Garfield right.  This particular day she said his eyelids were missing.  She said this as she pointed to my drawing of Garfield lunging toward a pan of lasagna.

“Garfield always has eyelids,” she said as she tapped on my white construction paper.

“I know, but not when he’s surprised, not when he’s scared, not when he sees lasagna,” I retorted.

Damn straight.

“Yes,” she nodded, “He always has eyelids.  When he’s surprised and scared and when he sees lasagna, his eyelids are always there.  They’re just really small then.  They’re just like a tiny lid around his eyeballs.  They might be small, but you can still see they’re there.”

The debate continued for several minutes as I grasped in vain for a tangible bit of proof to shove down Jodi’s gullet — say, a computerized information superhighway, something that could instantly and visually recall all of the Garfield strips of the past decade.  Alas, this was 1982.  So I instead prayed that the following Sunday would feature Garfield lunging for a pan of lasagna.

All of this arguing occurred during the quiet time reserved for our mathematics worksheets.  We were smart enough to know by then that math wouldn’t take us far in life.

Our teacher Mrs. Miles overheard the bickering.  She turned toward us with a stare that bore clear through our vitals.  Usually that meant you were dead.  I was certain she was always looking for a reason to kill off her students.  If it were 1902, we would’ve right then been frantically searching for her nerve tonic.

Mrs. Miles looked, sounded and acted exactly (exactly!) like scary Captain Lewis from the Private Benjamin movie.  She was terrifying.  I was Goldie Hawn in this scenario, by the way.

“Angie thinks Garfield doesn’t have eyelids when he’s surprised or scared or when he sees lasagna,” Jodi eagerly blurted out.

I waited for Mrs. Miles to respond with something like, Who the hell cares.  Now get back to work before I cut off your stumpy little fingers with the sharp side of my ruler.

But this time she seemed generally interested in our discussion.  At least, until we ceased amusing her and she could resume with the bodily dismemberment.

Instead, Mrs. Miles nodded emphatically and responded in the definitive tone that was usually reserved for miscalculated subtraction tables.  “That’s right, Angie.  Garfield always has eyelids.”  And then, I swear, had she been standing close enough, she would’ve circled my Garfield’s eyes with her red ink pen.

Oh, the look on Jodi’s face.  Beaming, such tremendous self-satisfaction.  It was all too much.  I gritted my teeth so hard they nearly shattered into a fine powder — a fine powder that might’ve softly fallen like snow to my desk, blanketing my drawing of Garfield and thereby disallowing the chance to further critique my genius.

Take that!

“How would she know anyway,” I spat out in a whisper.  I spat, literally.  It was my ace in the hole defense.

“What did you just say, Angie?”  Mrs. Miles had heard me.

Oh, God.  She heard me.  Poop.  Poopety-poopety-poopy-pants-poop.

“Angie said,” Jodi repeated loudly, “How would you know anyway.”

I felt my lungs collapse.  The room closed in.  My eyes caught Brian mid-pick of a booger as he waited intently for the carnage to ensue.

Holy crap I’m dead.  Holy, holy crap.  Sweet baby Jesus, save me from an early death that would come well before I could see a Hall and Oates concert.  Tell my parents I love them.  Tell my brother he still owes me the last Pop-Tart.  Tell my cat I’m sorry for the bike basket mishap.  Good bye.  I’ll see all of you and the Care Bears on the other side.  

But, in a shocking twist, Mrs. Miles stayed completely, eerily calm.

And I even think, by the look on her face, she was genuinely hurt.  It’s easy for me to see this now of course.  Now I know that, when confronted about one’s deficiency in basic Garfield anatomy, even the mighty ones fall to their knees.

“How would I know?  Well, I don’t know.”  She paused and thought about it.   “I suppose because I have two sons.”  Then she scrunched up her face like an injured Wile E. Coyote and looked down at her desk.

That sort of reminder, that your teacher had kids, that they knew about kid stuff, that they owned a pair of jeans, it always shattered your world for a moment.

But I was quick to recover from the jolt of seeing Mrs. Miles as a human before me.  Because I was mad.  Mad as hell.  And because I knew I was right and had no means to validate it.  And that was something from which I never fully recovered.   Still to this day.  Still to this day and every time I glance for more than two seconds at the Garfield strip before moving on to something actually funny.

That is, until now.

Thank you, computerized information superhighway.

(Jim Davis, I take back what I said about your irrelevance.  Though I find your work tired, repetitive and unamusing, I appreciate you kindly backing me up.)

Take that!

56 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2012 6:39 am

    Don’t you just LOVE it when you’re right? I hope Jodi and Mrs. Miles see this. At least one of them should remember. ; )

    • February 6, 2012 4:54 pm

      Yes, I’m all about being right. I don’t even care at this point if Garfield has the opposable thumbs necessary to eat his lasagna with a fork. Nah, all I care about is his eyelids and their part in my being right.

  2. February 6, 2012 6:47 am

    Ahhhh…sweet vindication. It’s good that you didn’t harbor a grudge all these years :)

    • February 6, 2012 5:40 pm

      Nope, no grudge here. None whatsoever. Nothing but the need for justice.

  3. Sarchasm2 permalink
    February 6, 2012 7:12 am

    I must have been seriously uncool :)

    • February 6, 2012 4:57 pm

      About four years after this occurred, computers moved in and drawing went the way of the dodo, I was right there with ya.

  4. February 6, 2012 7:17 am

    I bet they have both realized they were wrong by now. It must sting every time they open the funny papers. Maybe they can’t even read Garfield now without blushing a little and wanting to shrink. Maybe they stopped reading Garfield entirely, but still, the realization of their injustice and improper ridicule haunts them whenever someone says “I hate Mondays” or they spy a pan of lasagna cooling on the counter. Well. They deserve it.

    • February 6, 2012 4:59 pm

      I bet you’re right, Nicki. I just bet they haven’t forgotten it and have since discovered how wrong they really were. I sort of feel bad for them and the guilt they’ve had to carry around all these years.

      P.S. “I hate Mondays” — that was such an iconic Garfield bit!

  5. February 6, 2012 7:37 am

    I would contact Jodi the Gazelle and Mrs. Miles immediately. Perhaps send them the comic strip anonymously.

    • February 6, 2012 5:01 pm

      When they open the unmarked envelopes and see the comic strips with Garfield’s unlidded eyes circled in red ink, they’ll immediately nod their heads in a sheepish fashion and say, “I knew this day would come.”

  6. February 6, 2012 9:28 am

    I knew you were right. I knew Garfield was eyelid-less at those moments. I’ve had thoughts of looking up former teachers to give ’em h—, but I’m sure they’re all dead by now. Funny post. You’re good. I especially like the “seeing the Care Bears on the other side”, and the finely ground teeth.

    • February 6, 2012 5:03 pm

      I always assumed the Care Bears lived in Heaven, what with their cloud cars and cloud beds and such. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I’d prefer it’d be them, not St. Peter, who would meet me at the gates of Heaven.

  7. February 6, 2012 10:34 am

    oh, Mrs. Miles used a red ink pen. How traumatizing. That’s practically illegal now.
    Speaking of Mrs. Miles, I wonder what she is doing now? Still shattering children’s worlds by grocery shopping or going to the movies, I’d reckon.

    Love your posts!

    • February 6, 2012 5:05 pm

      Yes! Going grocery shopping, yes! Wasn’t that surreal to bump into them in benign settings like that? I’m getting goosebumps just thinking of those freaky encounters.

      Always appreciate you stopping by, Simple Life :)

      • February 7, 2012 11:16 am

        I saw some youth group girls at the post office a while back, and smiled and waved at seeing them during the week. Their eyebrows raised high as they nudged one other, “there’s our mentor”! It’s so weird to be on the other side…

      • February 7, 2012 2:55 pm

        It must be so weird to be on the other side of that. Someone pointing at me — “Look, she’s buying the unhealthy chips just like my mom does! And she’s wearing flip flops with sweatpants!” I’m cringing just imagining that.

  8. February 6, 2012 10:55 am

    “Tell my cat I’m sorry for the bike basket mishap,” is gold. I enjoyed the whole post; it brought back memories of sadistic teachers, rotten little girls, and fickle boys but the cat thing made me laugh out loud.

    • February 6, 2012 5:07 pm

      Thanks! Toto always made it look way too easy riding around in the witch’s bike basket. No so easy.

  9. February 6, 2012 1:19 pm

    I know this will come as a total shock but: I also used to draw Garfields. I was quite obsessed with drawing him actually. Wish I still had a few so I could see if I drew any eyelids…I’m sure I didn’t…

    • February 6, 2012 5:15 pm

      Wow — I am so not surprised, Darla! Sister-from-another-mister. Did you also dabble in Odie? I could never get the arch of his ears quite right.

  10. February 6, 2012 1:26 pm

    I think this may be one of your best posts! Witty, historically accurate, cleverly illustrated, includes hilarious examples of you thinking to yourself, excellent use of onomatopoeia (Poop. Poopety-poopety-poopy-pants-poop), plot reveals Jodi for what she really is (a Nelly), and all around entertaining! All of your talents wrapped into one well written, very funny post. And just so you know, in my real life I use to be a teacher, and drawing trumps stuff, hair, and speed. The kids who could draw were the best writers; you have definitely proven this theory (it occurs to me that I should work on my gravatar).

    • February 6, 2012 5:23 pm

      Thanks, WW. Very kind of you. Poop is really my go-to word when I’m trying to create a nice onomatopoeia feel to a line. The illustrations were fun to do. My daughter wrestled me for the Garfield drawings when I was done with them.

      Don’t you dare touch your gravatar. In the words of Billy Joel, “I love you just the way you are”. And for good measure I’d add, “Captain Jack will get you high tonight”.

      • February 6, 2012 6:45 pm

        We were just listening to Billy Joel on the way to Santa Barbara – we were laughing as Billy Joel sang “Captain Jack will get you high tonight” because we were going to be sailing on a boat owned by “Captain Jack.” He did give us champagne.

      • February 7, 2012 2:46 pm

        How funny — I don’t think I’ve referenced that song in about 10 years, yet I had this vague feeling that Captain Jack had crossed paths with you in recent days ;)

  11. Katie Nothern Adams permalink
    February 6, 2012 2:01 pm

    I actually remember being a bit awed by your drawing -particularly since you were a year younger than me and clearly better at it than I was.

    • February 6, 2012 5:27 pm

      I think my brother forced me to learn to draw at a young age because my parents didn’t buy us many toys, outside of chalk and Lincoln Logs. Tony invented a gazillion drawing-related games we used to play.

  12. Katie Nothern Adams permalink
    February 6, 2012 2:03 pm

    Also a little surprised that you failed to mention MYOB which is what I think of whenever I hear Mrs. Miles spoken of. – in this case written of.

    • February 6, 2012 5:30 pm

      I had no recollection of MYOB until I read this and then I could immediately hear it coming out of her mouth. Did I not nail it on the Private Benjamin comparison?! I mean, exactly!

      Katie, I think you’re one of my only Grand Island elementary school friends I’m in contact with — I should pay you to be like a mascot for my blog or something. You could do little cameos like Mr. Green Jeans on Captain Kangaroo.

  13. February 6, 2012 2:15 pm

    Keep it coming! Hopelessly addicted…

  14. February 6, 2012 4:15 pm

    What I like about this post is the epiphany of realizing a teacher is actually human. That’s something you never think about when you’re a kid. Also, I had my eyelids removed recently just to back you up.

    • February 6, 2012 5:31 pm

      Seriously “laughing out loud” about your eyelid removal surgery. You’re a true friend, Les.

  15. February 6, 2012 5:22 pm

    Ugh, adults have to be so careful what they say around little kids. You never know what will affect them. I remember the church nursery lady once telling some other kid – not even me – “shut up” when I was four and it scarred me. I mean, I am now recalling it on a blog comment 26 years later.

    And seriously, what DID she know? Adults had best know their stuff if they’re going to correct children on the accuracy of their statements on cartoon cats. Not her jurisdiction!

    • February 6, 2012 5:38 pm

      I just felt my heart well up with sweet justice upon reading your comment. You have given me a true sense of vindication.

      I hear you on the “shut up” trauma. What was it with those church nursery ladies? Eeeeeeek.

  16. February 6, 2012 6:40 pm

    I love your entry my friend :)

  17. mary permalink
    February 6, 2012 7:24 pm

    Each new blog post is my new favorite, Angie. You totally just transported me back to 2nd grade with this. The running. The drawing. The longest hair. I can smell the paste and the way the dittos smelled with that old-school purple ink now… Thanks for this one! :)

    • February 7, 2012 2:47 pm

      Thanks for reading, Mary. I know those two smells you speak of — I know them too well.

  18. February 7, 2012 9:19 am

    How is it that your posts keep getting better and better? You do not disappoint. Points 4 of 4 dead ON with me. I was right back there in grade school, chronically tangled hair, drawing pictures of running horses with flowing mane and Star Wars flying craft with extra fine detail to compensate for a severe lack in kick ball skills (they always form “the wall” when it was my turn). There was nothing at my house to lure kids to come play except for my most awesome Matchbox car collection (for the boys) and a few Barbies (for the girls). I was most decidedly NOT cool! But I was always right and knew everything about everything. That had to count for something. Right?

    • February 7, 2012 2:53 pm

      Thanks, Shannon. Why am I not surprised that you “get me”? Yes, I closed out my elementary school years with a meager dowry of three Barbies, a few tattered stuffed animals, a couple of Cabbage Patch dolls and a broken big-wheel. Not once did someone use me to get to any of my stuff. How sad.

      I loved your kick ball “wall” reference.

      • February 7, 2012 8:55 pm

        I recently passed on the hand-made Barbie furniture (my mom and other-neighbor-mom made) that moved around with me in boxes for decades. It was a particularly lean Christmas and we really couldn’t afford to buy more stuff. The girls thought I was the coolest mom ever. That made up for any uncoolness I ever experienced as a kid.

      • February 7, 2012 9:19 pm

        Furniture — I’d have given anything for that as a kid. My mom saved that kind of stuff, too (homemade Barbie evening gowns, pajamas, and the like). Sometimes just the fact that it was mine as a kid makes it even cooler to my daughter. (I realize of course that my old stuff will have the opposite effect on her later on.)

  19. February 8, 2012 2:16 am

    I feel your pain. WAsn’t it frustrating to have a leggy twit outrun you no matter how hard you tried? We couldn’t afford cool clothes and had to suffer the indignity of “recognized hand me downs.” So if you had one talent (mine was spelling), you clung to it like a liferaft, ku-fu-ing the Jodi-meanies who intentionally tried to push you off.

    You go girl. You also had something else, ol Jodi didn’t have. A sense of humor which you’ve honed into a blazing beacon for others. This was so enjoyable.

    • February 8, 2012 9:04 pm

      Thanks, Barb — I can definitely see you get where I’m coming from on this! Oh, the feeling of sisterhood is so strong on my comment board, I feel ten-feet tall. And fast enough to leave some 2nd grader in the dust in a 50 yard dash. Thanks for stopping by.

  20. February 8, 2012 6:47 pm

    Angie, I think that you should use your considerable profits from this blogging gig and build a special “Angie Presents Garfield” wing for that elementary school. You can have the drawings of lid-less Garfield right next to the picture of Angie and Her Brother that you have up there on the right, instead of the portraits of the President and Vice President (or the Principal and the Vice Principal we had in my school). Mrs. Miles and Jodi will never recover, and you can probably get a hug from the booger picker.

    • February 8, 2012 9:07 pm

      I love the way your mind works, Elyse. All of what you said would be a dream come true! I’ll pass on the hug from booger-picker however — I know exactly where his hands have been.

  21. February 9, 2012 12:08 pm

    Alas, I was so not cool by these standards at all. We were not “stuff” kids, my hair was baby fine & completely flat and straight, and I still can’t draw. And being the shortest girl in my grade meant anything sports related was out of the question. So I resorted to sarcasm and kicking boys in the shins to get attention.

    • February 9, 2012 1:57 pm

      I am so with you on the “no cool stuff” and “shortest in the class” things. I think you’ve just explained the fertile grounds from which my nasty sarcasm bud sprouted.

  22. Tony permalink
    February 9, 2012 3:41 pm

    I have to say sis, your rendition of a limp-waving Garfield is funnier than that entire Jim Davis cartoon.

    My specialties were Spiderman, Garfield, Ziggy (what a total, hippie cartoon) and Hagar the Horrible.

    I found out being the best drawer in class came with responsibilities. Like I had to judge drawing contests of some of the “lesser” artists in our class. And occasionally I gave into bribes.

    (I’m not proud of it)

    • February 9, 2012 10:31 pm

      Were those bribes comic books? Circus Peanuts? Your answer to that question will tell me all I need to know about you.

      • Tony permalink
        February 14, 2012 8:05 am

        Would you still think less of me if it was a bag of Taco flavored Doritoes?

      • February 15, 2012 8:39 pm

        Not at all. For that I’d definitely sacrifice my principles.

  23. February 9, 2012 6:30 pm

    Dammit, how the heck did I miss this? Imagine my face with my eyes so wide you cannot see my eyelids. Loved it!

    • February 9, 2012 10:15 pm

      You should know that my eyelids have been surgically removed now after hearing about the miracle surgery of Les over at Best Bathroom Books. So, please, no explanation marks as it may force me to want to blink.

  24. February 12, 2012 6:36 am

    You are so funny. How do you remember all of this stuff?

    • February 12, 2012 4:08 pm

      Probably the reason I can’t remember math formulas, historical dates or biology experiments.

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