Friday, August 7, 2009

Stillwater: A Memoir of Boyhood Part 4

The over-rated science-fiction author Harlan Ellison has always had some pretty good things to say. One of them was: “Mothers are meant to do three things: love you; feed you and give away your comic book collection.”
This is my tale of that.
I had ‘em all: Avengers #1, X-Men #1, Fantastic Four #4, Daredevil #1, Marvel Tales #1, The Hulk when the Hulk was grey, Tales to Astonish with Ant-Man, Journey into Mystery with that early Kirby or Ditko Thor.
And, lo, there came to be a thing called a rummage sale at Stillwater Community Hall. My mother, though I had proved to her that reading comic books gave me superheroic grades in reading in school, decided that my comic book collection was a waste of space. And, after all, you’ve read them, they’re finished. My mother, one of the great readers of all time, could not understand the joy of rereading or collecting. Not getting collecting, I sort of understand. We were always surrounded by what would now be called tchotckes -beautiful figurines of birds and courtly ladies and gents. Mom presents. I’ll never forget, one time, breaking something and my Mom just sitting down and holding her head and saying, “I’ll never have one good thing, kids keep breaking them. Everything I’ve got has been glued together.” It was a horrible moment. Certainly I didn’t break much. I remember years later when I broke something and she said, “Don’t worry about it.” And years later when she broke a Persian glass goblet, one of a pair I had given her with a bottle of Kahlua for us to toast a lonely Christmas, alone together, I remember telling her, “I didn’t give you those to cause you any pain. It’s gone, let’s just be happy we have each other and don’t have to worry about it.” A few years later she knocked over a brand-new television, but that wasn’t her fault. She had her routine for going to bed and drawing the curtains around the house and suddenly this new thing was in her way, not on a proper stand. Ah breakage, it all comes down to it doesn’t it? Breakage of spirits, of bodies, of lives. Such loss. Life, it isn’t for the faint of heart. Life, it doesn’t end well.
Mom’s favorite book was Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. If you’ve read it that explains much.
Anyhow, the comics were donated under much duress and, likely, tears. That night, at the same hall incidentally as the unfolding of the Tale of Hot Dog Suit (see further back in this blog), my friends swarmed me. It was a wilding of sorts. “Man, get over there, there’s all these great comics and they’re all in PERFECT CONDITION. And, the lady there is selling them for A NICKEL EACH OR THREE FOR A DIME!”
My stomach and nuts descended that night to levels that I’m not sure they’ve ever recovered from.
While my Mom was compis mentis, I would recount this tale to her. She would always look guilty and say, “I didn’t know!”
“Those comics are worth $200,000 each now, Mom! I could’ve been a millionaire.”
When she had lost her mind, I still occasionally muttered it to her.
Now, I’m a semi-pro comic dealer. I’m not a millionaire. Though, Mom, I could’ve been.
And, yes, she loved me and fed me. She gave away my comic collection. She was a great Mom.

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