Nor was display of the heart prominent; there was not much touching, Michaelis notices, in family photographs or in Schulz’s memory. When Sparky—as he was called all his life, nicknamed in infancy after the racehorse Spark Plug in the comic strip “Barney Google”—returned from the Second World War, in which he had seen overseas combat, he entered his father’s barbershop and the haircut in progress continued. “No one gave me a hug,” the young veteran recalled. “We didn’t have any party. . . . That was it.” In turn, Schulz was gingerly with his own children and shied from physical affection; his cousin Patty testified, “Hugging him was like hugging a tree—he never moved.” At the outset of his wartime service, in 1943, he came home on a day pass to say goodbye to his mother, who was painfully dying of metastasized cervical cancer. In Michaelis’s telling: “He said he guessed it was time to go. . . . She turned her gaze as best she could. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘good-bye, Sparky. We’ll probably never see each other again.’ ” A bleaker deathbed blessing has seldom been recorded.That said, some of his thoughts about himself ring awfully familiar:
When I was small, I believed that my face was so bland that people would not recognize me if they saw me some place other than where they normally would. I was sincerely surprised if I happened to be in the downtown area of St. Paul, shopping with my mother, and we would bump into a fellow student at school, or a teacher, and they recognized me. I thought that my ordinary appearance was a perfect disguise. It was this weird kind of thinking that prompted Charlie Brown’s round, ordinary face.The New Yorker goes on to relate details both small (Schultz slashing his son with a hockey stick) and large (the diabolically evil Lucy Von Pelt is based on Schultz's first wife). Art is apparently fueled by life's ugliness.