When I was in third grade, my school had a book fair. I wasn’t really too sure how it worked. All I knew was that when I went up to the desk at the front, I was given ten dollars in monopoly money and then let loose in a room full of books. By now, I was practically hopping up and down. I had ten whole dollars to spend on whatever books I liked, and I had no idea where to start.
Well, maybe that’s a tiny bit of a lie. I had some idea where to start: I had to get a book about space. Third grade was around the time when my (still-running) space obsession began, and I was determined to learn everything about it. So I looked for books about space. And I didn’t find a single one, except for a few kindergarten-level ones. But I was determined, and I kept looking. And then I spotted it: an orange cover and big, bold white letters: “Weirdos From Another Planet!” it proclaimed. Weirdos from another planet? Aliens? Now that was what I was looking for, I thought. I picked it up. And then I realized it wasn’t a book about space; it was actually that comic strip that I saw in the newspaper every Sunday. The one about the boy with the spiky hair and his tiger friend.
The one called Calvin and Hobbes.
I bought the book. I figured that if I couldn’t find a book about space, I might as well buy a book where the characters go to space. I think it might have been the best decision my third-grade self ever made. Hell, it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my twenty years of existence. On the bus back home, I started reading the book. Half an hour and about twenty-five pages later, I almost missed my stop. I spent most of the rest of the evening devouring the book. And then I read it again two days later.
Over the years, I’ve bought more and more Calvin and Hobbes books; I even brought one of them with me on my first day of freshman year at BU, and I’ve brought it back with me each year. Over the years, I realized that some of the most important things I’ve ever learned have come from that 6-year-old boy and the too-real-to-be-imaginary tiger. I learned that traveling to Mars isn’t too hard; all I needed was a little red wagon and a little bit of imagination. I learned that even if lucky rocketship underpants don’t make a bad day better, there will always be a new day. And I learned how to play Calvinball.
In Calvinball, there are only two rules: it can’t be played the same way twice, and you always have to wear a bandit mask. When I was a kid, I figured that Calvinball was just a really funny game in a comic book. Maybe I’d get to play it some day. A few days ago, as I jaywalked across Comm Ave, worrying about what I’d do after graduation, I realized that I’d been playing Calvinball all my life. I just didn’t know I had the mask on. By jaywalking across Comm Ave, I’d unwittingly added my own rule to the game, at least temporarily. It felt strangely great, as if I’d found a way to walk through brick walls; I’d spent way too long worrying about the rules that had been put in place for me, when all along I could have made up my own rules – just like a game of Calvinball.
The very last Calvin and Hobbes comic strip ends with Calvin and Hobbes on a toboggan. “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy,” says Calvin, “let’s go exploring!”
Which is exactly what I intend to do.