Last night I was watching the Indians steal a little happiness from Cubs fans, eating roasted pumpkin seeds and drinking apple cider, when I suddenly remembered something. I realized that it is almost Halloween and I forgot to send out a happy birthday to good old Charlie Brown. The debut of his Halloween special and my year of birth are the same. So as it turns 50 this year, I’ll do the same in a couple months. Some say The Great Pumpkin was Schultz’s penance for A Charlie Brown Christmas. In Pumpkin, the sage prophet Linus, who lays out the Gospel message and brings Christmas back to its Christian roots, instead becomes the buffoon. Never letting common sense or practical experience get in the way, Linus becomes a caricature of blind, ill informed faith.
Whatever the truth to that, The Great Pumpkin, like the classic Peanut’s Christmas special with Christmas, manages to capture that nostalgia of Halloweens gone by. It has all of the tropes: the fall leaves, the house party, the tricks or treats, the Autumnal atmosphere, and basically that way you always wanted Halloween to be when you were a kid.Growing up in a rural community in the Midwest, I always identified with the Snoopy segments. I can remember running through fields, going from house to house TPing and other activities. Those fields outside of our small Midwest town and the landscape Snoopy traverses are practically the same. I can still remember, when I was really young, some of the old timer farmers who, perhaps inspired by nearby Amish communities, still put out haystacks and cornstalks in their fields as the harvest time came and went. Those were happy times. And few seemed as good at capturing the feel of those times, albeit through idyllic lenses, as Schultz when he was at the top of his game.
So Happy Birthday Great Pumpkin, and thanks for the memories. As my boys say, when they see Charlie Brown and Linus talking at their wall the next day, they know that Christmas is just around the corner.