Sunny is learning to read, and, like her sister before her, she likes to practice with comic strip collections.
This seems to bother those people who confuse literacy with literary and librarian with pretentious outdated stereotype.
Without getting too much into it, comic strips* are a great literacy tool. They’re dialogue heavy, with interesting images to reinforce meaning. They generally contain either a punch-line or a dramatic statement as a reward for reading. And they’re short.
None of the collections we have in the house—or at least on the lower shelves—are particularly adult-oriented, so the hardest part is trying to explain the jokes, especially when they rely on sarcasm, irony, or a solid knowledge of best (or worst) business practices and/or global socio-economics and political grabassery.**
Which isn’t to say that I don’t occasionally wish for a longer storyline and maybe more in the way of text.
So when Sunny presented her current favorite Get Fuzzy collection at bedtime, I sighed and asked her if there wasn’t anything else she could find in any of our bookcases before giving in to the awesome persuasive power of a small, stubborn child wrapped in a furry bathrobe with purple penguins on it.
I was skipping around, going for the quick funny so I wouldn’t have to put much effort into it,*** when Sunny put out a hand to stop me from turning the page. “What’s this one, Mommy?”
“Well,” I said, “They’re waiting in line at the DMV—”
“The Department of Motor Vehicles—it’s the place where you get your driver’s license renewed, and your new license plate stickers and things like that. And it’s usually a long wait in line and sometimes people get impatient, and Rob has Bucky in a baby carrier so . . . Um, it’s not really a joke, more of a reminder about how it feels to—”
“Do you do that?”
“Put the cat in a baby carrier? No, Toby wouldn’t like that.”
“Actually, I don’t have to go to the DMV much, because driver’s licenses don’t need to be renewed for years and I can order a new sticker or my license plate online—OH, MY GOD, IS IT OCTOBER?!”
And I abandoned my startled child to tear apart any area in which I might have stashed the renewal notice that came last month and which has evidently evaporated off the face of this earth.
So, this morning before I clocked in, I called the Office of the Secretary of State, and threw myself on the mercy of a very nice lady,^ who gave me my registration and PIN number, without making me walk three blocks to look at my license plate number. Thus armed, I went to the cyberdriveIllinois site and started to fill out the online form . . .
OH, MY GOD! IT ISN’T SEPTEMBER ANYMORE!
Turns out, the coverage date on my insurance card had lapsed a wee bit.
So I picked up the phone called my Insurance Agent and the very nice lady over there^^ faxed me a new temporary card and promised to get me the real ones in the mail ASAP.
Somewhat shaken and profoundly grateful that I hadn’t needed to produce a valid insurance card in the last two weeks, I managed to fill out the rest of the form and enter my credit card information without incident.
I’m now completely street legal—or will be by the time my current sticker expires.
I also owe Mr. Conley big time for drawing that particular strip, and for creating Bucky Katt, whom Sunny inexplicably adores.
Don’t knock comic strips, y’all. They’re lifesavers.
*And comic books, too, of course
**Which is why we’ve asked her—and her sister—to hold off on Doonesbury for a while.
***Alert the Mommy of the Year Committee. I’m sure they have a file on me by now.
^Seriously, Jess White, you have some great people working in your Public Inquiry Division.
^^State Farm, you have awesome people, too!
(Get Fuzzy is the work of the brilliant and hopefully non litigious Darby Conley, who owns the image above)