Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Superheroes (part two)

Pete Thistle sent me an outstanding story about childhood and superheroes.

When I was 4 and 5 years old, I had a red sleeping bag. It was cool, slippery nylon on the outside, and warm, fuzzy flannel on the inside, just like many sleeping bags now. It had a zipper that went up the side, from the feet, to the opening where your head sticks out. Again, very normal. Then, at the top of where the zipper stopped, there was a Velcro tab that pulled across the front of the opening and secured on the other side of your neck, so that you stretched it across, secured it tight, and your face stuck through an opening held air tight below your chin to keep you warm. I believe this also is very common. It was an ordinary, regular, plain old, run of the mill, mild mannered red sleeping bag.

Until you unzipped it.

See, then it transformed into a flowing, fluttery, magical sheet, that if secured around my neck by that seemingly normal Velcro strap, would enable me to fly. Or so I believed. I'm not sure what first gave me the idea to tie this thing around my neck with the Velcro, but once I did there was no stopping me. I would climb up a few steps of the stairs in the front of my parents house and leap off with a yell of "SUUU-PER PETER!!!" and the faith of a child who believed that if he tried hard enough, and practiced a lot, he could learn to fly. At one point as Christmas neared, I believed that Santa Claus was going to teach me.

It was 20 years ago now, and I was just a little boy, so my memory is a little fuzzy, but I recall jumping off those stairs for what seemed like hours. Eventually I would get the courage to move up one more, from two steps to three. Then from three to four. Suddenly the distance to the bottom was still manageable, but the height was beginning to hurt my little legs. But I had to get higher! Yes, that's all I needed, just more air time! So I gathered all of the couch cushions and pillows I could find to soften my landing. Four steps became five, and then six. I don't know where it stopped, but thinking about it now, I can still remember the rush and fear of crouching down like a tiny spring, releasing suddenly, flying into the air, falling a distance of what must have been twice my height, and then BAM!, right into the floor.

Santa Claus never came to give me lessons, but he did give me something. When I awoke that Christmas morning I found two interesting presents under the tree. One was mostly green, and it was a box shaped like an army Jeep. The other was mostly red, and was shaped like a biplane. The boxes themselves were essentially toys themselves, but they had one side in the back where you opened them up to take out whatever was stashed inside. In the Jeep, Santa left me a bag of a wooden train set. I don't know what happened to those, but I loved them a lot. Inside the biplane was something that immediately became my favorite item in the world, and I still have it today. See the attached pictures. Thanks, Mom.

That picture isn't Pete (I know him), but it's definitely his cape. Pete's mom sounds like she is many kinds of awesome.

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