Brooke McEldowney’s 9 Chickweed Lane is an odd strip. As an illustrator, he has an excellent eye, especially for the feminine form. Too often, however, the strip is about cats or some old guy in bib overalls named Thorax, who believes he communes with the cosmos. It’s full of too much New Hampshire whimsy.
But every so often an uncharacteristic storyline gets a stranglehold on events, and something, well, truly interesting happens. An earlier storyline followed two characters in a music competition overseas and their own unfolding passionate love story, which to their mix of horror and delight got transmitted on YouTube. (In sibling Pigborn, the characters of Chickweed played out A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)
The current Chickweed story is a flashback, in which the grandmother tells her daughter of her WWII days singing for the USO — until she was recruited by U.S. military intelligence to entertain German POWs, hold their hands and listen to their deepest secrets … including, G2 hopes, about troop strength, movement and the like.
“When I reached out and they held my hands, they seemed saddest, and so happy to talk,” Edna recalls.
But her deepest challenge came from non-Germans. “Somehow people knew I had been visiting a POW camp, and I could feel their hostility. I consorted with the enemy … and the enemy were killers as far as they were concerned.”
She also remembers the English anger with the Yanks, who arrived late, again, to the war. “So then I showed up, gliding into and out of POW camps to sing to Germans. I began to wonder whose ally I really was. And I couldn’t explain it to anybody.”