Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Little Red Haired Girl

Charles Schulz

I read somewhere once that only two percent of the population are natural redheads. I didn't always appreciate my hair, and really don't appreciate that now there is a little gray mixed in occasionally - but as I get older I like it more.

I've always been a pretty strong individual. Some things were by choice: I changed the spelling of my name in second grade so it wouldn't be like everyone else I knew with the same name. Some things weren't: I was usually the new kid with the funny accent as we moved around a lot, and I was always taller than everyone else - including a couple of teachers in elementary school. Nowadays I appreciate the height and the red hair...and my accent is a mixture of all kinds of places.

Isn't it funny that no matter how much we want to be individuals as kids we still want to fit in? Perhaps that is why I didn't wear heels a lot back then and why I wished I was blond with blue eyes or dark-haired with darker skin. Now it is different. I wear heels most of the time, and I "enhance" my hair to make it even redder (and conveniently cover that gray that is sneaking in).

I recently discovered - or perhaps just didn't remember - that when my fiance was joking around with me and calling me the "little redheaded girl" it actually was a character from the Peanuts that I didn't know about. I remember Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and his piano, Peppermint Patty - and, of course, Snoopy. But not the little red haired girl - who was actually named Heather. She was the one Charlie Brown was in love with for years, and the one that Charles Schulz apparently put into the cartoons because of an unrequited love of his own who had red hair. The inspiration for the character was a very real woman named, Donna:

A former coworker, Donna Johnson (born circa 1929 in Minneapolis, Minnesota), was Schulz's inspiration for the character. A 1947 high school graduate, Johnson was working in the accounting department of the Art Instruction, Inc., a correspondence school where Schulz worked. Johnson and Schulz eventually became romantically involved and dated for three years, but in 1950 when Schulz proposed to her, she refused him, ended the relationship and abruptly married fireman Allan Wold on October 21, 1950. Schulz was devastated, but he and Johnson-Wold remained friends for the rest of his life.

Said Schulz of the relationship, "I can think of no more emotionally damaging loss than to be turned down by someone whom you love very much. A person who not only turns you down, but almost immediately will marry the victor. What a bitter blow that is." This experience became arguably the most poignant of all story lines for the entire Peanuts strip.

"I'd like to see Charlie Brown kick that football, and if he gets the little red-haired girl, that's fine with me," Donna said around the time Schulz announced his retirement in 1999.

Even cartoons are based on real life experiences. I can appreciate that as a writer. And, naturally, how can I not appreciate the whole thing about the red hair?

So, to my fiance, thanks for not only appreciating me for being different, free-spirited, rebellious and all, but for introducing me to a character out of a favorite cartoon I didn't even know about. But, just for the record - and to assure you - there is one big difference: your love is not unrequited.

Charles Schulz

1 comment:

Strong said...

And I love my red-haired girl. :-)