A Holiday Story
As I write this, it’s Christmas Eve, and the third night of Hanukkah It’s also been a night spent thinking about Calvin, and Hobbes. Not the historical figures, although nothing says ‘holiday cheer’ quite like the writings of a dour sixteenth century theologian and a misanthropic seventeenth century philosopher.
Maybe I should back up a bit. I never much liked the comic strip called ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ but Marrissa loved them. Sorry, I need to back up even more…
Marrissa and I were partners, but we wouldn’t have called it that in the early nineties. We were ‘boyfriend and girlfriend.’ We met at a club called The Rose, where I did some stand up and sang a little, and she sang a lot. Let me tell you–that woman could sing.
We became an item quickly, and I, for one, was thrilled! She was talented, smart and funny, with a fiery personality. I was . . . a hot mess, but she didn’t see me that way at the time. Probably. I’m guessing…
Now, have you ever had a relationship with someone that was perfect…except for that one, tiny, stupid, inconsequential thing that they like, or do, or watch, or read? Something your partner loves, and you think to yourself, “One weird thing doesn’t matter…I’m happy to let them enjoy their quirky thing!”
Well, this wasn’t that. Marrissa loved Calvin and Hobbes, and I didn’t get it, and it drove me a little nuts. I didn’t get why someone who seemed clever and jaded, just like me, was reading a comic strip! This was no ‘graphic novel’…this was in the damned Sunday paper with the grocery store ads!
Here’s the stupid part–I didn’t ‘get it, because I didn’t ‘get’ Calvin and Hobbes! Embarrassing as this is, during the entire time Marrissa and I were together, I thought ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ was about a kid with a talking tiger.
It wasn’t until after she and I broke up that I realized that the tiger only talked when adults aren’t around. That’s right, folks–this genius here couldn’t figure out that Calvin and Hobbes was a fantasy. And since I couldn’t figure it out, it was obviously stupid.
In some small, ‘butterfly effect’ way, if I’d understood that the damned tiger wasn’t real, I might have been able to work everything else out with Marrissa. Anyway, we had a good run, lasted a couple years, and even tried living together. We didn’t make it, for reasons that don’t matter here, or anymore.
She became a very successful talent manager, and we kept in touch, but we weren’t close. We regained some of that closeness after she got the cancer diagnosis, I suppose in the spirit of . . . what? Nostalgia? The wisdom acquired through distance and years apart? Fear of our own mortality?
But we still weren’t that close, so it was surprising for her to send me a text, needing to talk soon. I called, and she told me that the doctor found that her cancer had become ‘aggressive,’ and that she didn’t have much time left, and that all they could do is manage the pain. Fucking cancer.
Marissa died shortly after that, over a year ago. A friend of hers who called me with the news told me that her lawyers would be contacting me as they took care of her estate.I got the call, and lawyer guy tells me that Marissa wanted me to have something sentimental, which would be sent to me after probate.
We hadn’t been together for many years, and only talked on the phone two or three times a year, so I couldn’t imagine what she wanted me to have. We didn’t even live in the same state! Then, every few weeks, I got an envelope from the lawyer.
It was always the same things–a list of beneficiaries (with me on it), and a bunch of legalese amounting to, “If you have a gripe about what she left you, you ungrateful bastards, you can show up in court on this date and bitch about it.”
I didn’t give it much thought the first time. But every few weeks, the same two pieces of paper, and yeah, after a few months, I admit–I started wondering. What could she have possibly wanted to give me that involved lawyers, and witnesses?
I got a box delivered to me today, and in the box was another envelope from the lawyer. Oh, also in the box? Marrissa’s ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ books. Suddenly, I went through several emotions. Surprise–”Look, it’s her ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ books!” Curiosity–”Why did she give me her ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ books?” Self-loathing–”I hate that I was starting to hope it was a family heirloom worth millions of dollars, instead of a bunch of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ books.”
I may have been slow to understand the appeal of a boy and his tiger (who only talks when the adults aren’t around, I get it now), but it didn’t take me long to understand why Marrissa sent the books to me. She obviously decided I was finally smart enough to appreciate something she cared about, instead of just my own thing.
And maybe that’s the true meaning of this time of year. Maybe, instead of thinking about what we want from some old, bearded, Nordic guy, we should be noticing the people we love, and thinking about what makes them laugh, and what makes them cry. So, at least until mid-January, let’s all just take the time to notice each other, and call it a holiday. That’s my resolution for the new year, but first, I have some comic strips to catch up on.