The following is a column I wrote for the paper a few years ago, but I still get a lump in my throat when I read it. That little superhero is long gone. He has moved on to football and basketball and honing his drawing skills. But every time I look at the photo above, I can see my little man fearlessly saving the world over and over again.
It all started with the Boy Wonder. In the fall of 2005, my mom made Batman and Robin costumes for my two boys. The two-year-old became smitten with Robin. I remember the morning I was awakened at the crack of dawn to my son, standing right next to my bed, his little towhead inches from my face.
“I waked up. Can I be Robin?” he asked me with those bright blue eyes shining.
At that moment, I had no idea what was in store for me. That for the next two years, this child would live his life as a superhero. After Robin, it was Superman, Spiderman, Zorro, Flash, J’onn J’onzz, Hulk…if he was in a comic book, we had the costume.
Grandma, the seamstress, was a busy woman, sewing alter-egos for her grandson. I’m sure at some point in her life she had dreams of sewing frilly little dresses for granddaughters (especially since her own daughter was not the frilly dress type), but God chose to bless her with all male grandchildren, so she traded in her lace and bows for capes and masks.
We went to the grocery store as Superman, Lowe’s as Batman and the park as Zorro. It was even common to find him asleep in a cape and mask, after he had been tucked in bed in regular PJs. The only place I did not let Owen go in costume was church. I’m confident God would not mind, but it just didn’t seem right to me.
I remember having women a couple decades my senior come up to me and smile with that knowing smile and say things like, “Oh, I remember that age. My son was always flying off the couch in a cape. Enjoy it. My superhero is 23 now.”
In my mind, my superhero would never grow out of it. He would be flying off the furniture and saving the world from the bad guys forever. And for two solid years, that’s just what he did. Then, one day, he decided to dress in the human clothes in his closet. And eventually, he started wearing boy clothes more often than superhero clothes. Now, it’s a rare day that he dresses in costume; though I can’t bring myself to box them up and put them away.
The other morning, as he was getting ready for school, he said, “Mom, why do you always make me wear these Spiderman shirts? It makes people think I like Spiderman, and I don’t like Spiderman.”
What? Did I hear that right? What happened to my web flinging wall climber? He can’t be growing up. Other people’s kids grow up. Mine aren’t supposed to.
I now realize I am destined to become one of those nice ladies who relives the past as they see young moms buying groceries with their superheroes in tow. I will say things like, ‘Enjoy it while it lasts. They grow up so fast.’ And other phrases that so easily rattle off the tongue of people who have been there.
And I’m sure those young moms will smile at me, but in their minds they will think just as I did, “What a nice lady, but she’s wrong about my son. He will always be a superhero. Only other people’s kids grow up.”
The Stuff of Life column was originally published in the Tri-County Times.