The Comfort Zone: Growing up with Charlie Brown

On the eve of Schulz’s induction into the Army, his mother died of cancer. She was forty-eight and had suffered greatly, and Schulz later described the loss as an emotional catastrophe from which he almost did not recover. During basic training, he was depressed, withdrawn, and grieving. In the long run, though, the Army was good for him. He went into the service, he recalled later, as “a nothing person” and came out as a staff sergeant in charge of a machine-gun squadron. “I thought, By golly, if that isn’t a man, I don’t know what is,” he said. “And I felt good about myself and that lasted about eight minutes, and then I went back to where I am now.” After the war, Schulz returned to his childhood neighborhood, lived with his father, became intensely involved in a Christian youth group, and learned to draw kids. For the rest of his life, he virtually never drew adults. He avoided adult vices — didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t swear — and, in his work, he spent more and more time in the imagined yards and sandlots of his childhood. But the world of “Peanuts” remained a deeply motherless place. Charlie Brown’s dog may (or may not) cheer him up after a day of failures; his mother never does. —Jonathan FranzenThe Comfort Zone: Growing up with Charlie Brown (The New Yorker)

My mother purchased paperback copies of “Peanuts” — we had stacks and stacks in the little room under the stairs, spanning decades. (I remember reading plenty of cartoons on the US space race, jokes about Sputnik, the introduction of the character Woodstock, etc.)

She also had a few volumes of “Pogo” from the same era.