Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Little Red-Haired Girl

Do you ever have a fantasy? There is a little red-haired girl at the grocery store that is mine.
The Little Red-Haired Girl is an unseen character in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. She is the object of Charlie Brown's affection, although he never dares to go near her. Whether or not she has any feelings towards Charlie Brown has never been revealed.
The only known Schulz drawing of The Little Red-Haired Girl was drawn sometime in 1950, long before she was referred to in the strip. Why Schulz did not introduce her into the strip when it started is unknown. She bears a strong resemblance to Patty, a character who was prominent in the early years of the strip.
Charlie Brown first pines for the Little Red-Haired Girl during lunch at school in the strip from November 19, 1961. He continued loving her until the end of the strip in 2000. In a series of strips from July 1969, the Little Red-Haired Girl moves away, causing Charlie Brown sheer grief. He sees her again during a ski trip a few months later, and Peppermint Patty and Marcie run into her at summer camp in 1972. On May 30, 1978 Charlie Brown says that he thinks about the Little Red-Haired Girl constantly, suggesting that she has moved back to the neighborhood. It is confirmed that she has returned in the strip from December 27, 1978, in which Charlie Brown stands outside her house. Even though she is often referred to in the comic strip, the Little Red-Haired Girl is never seen, except for one strip from 1998, in which she is seen in silhouette.

One reason Schulz never drew the Little Red-Haired girl in the strip, is to show Charlie Brown's hopeless longing for her. Schulz also admitted in 1997, “I could never draw her to satisfy the readers' impression of what she's probably like.”
The character was based on Donna Johnson, a red-haired woman who Charles M. Schulz proposed to but who turned him down. This is where Schulz got the idea for Charlie Brown's unrequited love years later.
My little red-haired girl drives a red car with a white stuffed toy in the read window. She parks in the same spot every day or at least the days she is working.
I started noticing her when I would park my bike. She was sitting in her car with the door open, smoking a cigarette and talking on the phone. Several times I saw her doing the same and wondered who she was?
I noticed her in the deli section but I never go there. I also noticed she never smiled. So if I saw her walking by, with that swagger she walks with, I’d ask her “Why don’t you smile?”
Then her car wasn’t in the lot. The next day her car wasn’t in the lot. The next day and the next her car wasn’t in the lot. Was she sick? Was she on vacation? Had she gotten another job?
It had become a familiar part of life to look for that little red car when I locked up but it was no longer there. The little red-haired girl would always be a fantasy to me. An unknown wonder that I was fascinated by. 
She appeared younger but I had no idea. She had an interesting attraction with enough rough edges to show life experiences. Maybe that was the reason she didn’t smile?
Who was on the phone? Her mother? Her boyfriend? Another job offer?
Like so many mysteries in life, I just forgot about the little red-haired girl and found something else to fill my time. A week went by and then another and life moved on.
So yesterday, I return to my same spot and lock up my bike when suddenly I see the little red car with the white stuffed toy in the rear window. The little red-haired girl is back.
Whether it is a creepy stalking or just a mild mannered couriousity, the mysterious little red-haired girl is still possible to walk by me and I can stop her to ask, “Why don’t you smile?”

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