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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Sad Fate of Cooker and Jumba

I was preparing to either A: Share my adventures in the OBX's 4 x 4 section or B: Rant on my local KFC consistently screwing up my dinner order, but will save those for later. Instead, it’s a spontaneous post on childhood.

I was never a fan of Calvin and Hobbes. I probably would have been but I never paid much attention to comic strips outside of Bloom County or Outland, growing up. I followed Opus to the end which was sad and poignant all at once. My only real devotion to Sunday or daily comics is Get Fuzzy, which details my life as a pet owner. My alpha female cat Emmy is so Bucky in more ways than one.

However, C&H holds a place in my heart because of its theme of childhood and imaginary friends, stuffed or otherwise. Childhood is one of those sacred things that I miss terribly. The older and more cantankerous I get the more I wish I could be a child, trusting and optimistic.

I can’t even live vicariously through my own child because I’ve let the ‘angry’ out more often than not as she destroys another household item or fails to pay attention to anything she’s doing. She’s four and I have no patience. That’s my bad. Though, realize, the child is only four in a physical sense. There is far more going on behind those eyes and it scares me. She is either going to be a genius and save the world or the biggest criminal mind this side of the Legion of Doom.

But looking on as she plays with her animals as if they were her best friends gets me a little choked up. Indeed, Calvin and Hobbes is one of the saddest strips written. In my opinion it just foreshadows that inevitable passing of Calvin from childhood into adolescence, marking the end of Hobbes anthropomorphic life as we know it. Like watching Toy Story 3, the writing is on the panel.  Each day brings Hobbes’ eventual demise closer and closer.

So, now I have three identifiers of the saddest commentary on childhood; the first being Peter, Paul and Mary’s "Puff the Magic Dragon". That has got to be the saddest song ever. I’m a big ole ball of goo when it comes to the change in tone as Jackie grows up and forgets Puff, leaving him to go off alone and exist as a sad dragon with his best friend gone, forever. Toy Story 3 was the second as Andy leaves for college. Even as I type this, I choke back that lump, thinking of those visceral scenes of childhood stealing as Andy’s toys accept death and await incineration. Then, even though they survive, there is the passing of ownership from Andy to Bonnie.  Part of me thinks that there should have been some moment of recognition between Andy and Woody, something that says, “I know you can talk and I’m OK with that. Thank you for being my best friend all these years.” Finally, Calvin and Hobbes ends before the sad coda can be heard; showing promise of new adventures and exploration of the world. Yet, I know what lies ahead for these best friends and I lament the fate of every childhood toy, stuffed animal and imaginary friend in the world.

For my own childhood, I had two imaginary friends; Cooker and Jumba. I have no recollection of their introduction into my life, nor any about their departure. I do not even recall them being a very big influence on my playtime. I simply remember that they were there and then they weren’t. I can describe them only as this. Cooker was a thin, Hispanic kid, somewhere in his teens but sporting a pencil thin mustache. He kept his haircut very neat and would usually be envisioned sporting a plain white t-shirt. Jumba, however, was a bit more slovenly, chubby Caucasian kid with broad lips, messy hair, and a striped shirt. Pejoratively speaking, he was a mouth breather. Cooker and Jumba represented the two sides of my behavioral psyche. Whenever I did something good or selfless it was through Cooker. If I was bad or broke something, Jumba was the ultimate catalyst of my indiscretion.

Once, my parents asked me what they did for a living. I could only surmise that Cooker was just that, a cook and that Jumba was unemployed. I’m sure I made those up on the spot and had no thought into conceiving those vocations for my imaginary friends. I don’t remember anyone ever asking why I was friends with Jumba, given that he was a bad influence. I’m sure my response would have been, “Because he has no other friends.”

I don’t remember when they disappeared from my periphery but I take it Jumba had a harder time accepting the loss than Cooker did. If I had to imagine what happened at that moment I think Cooker would have been a little sad, but ultimately accepted the decision, moving on to some other child’s life. Meanwhile Jumba just sat there, befuddled with what to do. Constant pleadings from Cooker to accompany him were probably met with denial on the part of Jumba. Cooker, not wanting to be stuck in limbo, eventually had to leave Jumba behind. I’m sure he didn’t want to, but Jumba just could not accept that he needed to move on and risked dragging Cooker down into the mire of wallowing and dissipation into nothingness.

Well, ain’t we all just uplifted and happy for the rest of the day!

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