You Can Be A SuperHero, Too



  SOPHIA - 17

 (Synopsis: With the focus on Superheroes, who does a child look to for protection?  For his or her role model of Vigilance.  In this timely story, G-Ma Lori shares the excitement of imagination with her grandchildren, but, as a Grandmother of Vigilance, she is cautious to include the difference between "make believe" super-heroes and "real" superheroes--the kind who run into burning buildings to save women and children, the kind who don't make the covers of comics, but each day provide a child with all the protections that make believe superheroes pretend to offer.)                                  

                        YOU CAN BE A SUPER HERO, TOO

     “G-Ma, did you know Spiderman doesn’t use any guns or weapons when he saves people and does good things?  He spins and shoots webs from his hands and…he sticks to the sides of building and… he even can climb up on top of the Empire State Building if he wants to.”
      My five-year-old grandson, Matt, held my hand and skipped next to me as he gushed out the description of the media’s newest super hero.  His eyes were ablaze with excitement as he expounded on the current fame of Spider-Man, the recreation of the old Marvel Comic’s hero, introduced four decades ago in August 1962.

      His three-year-old sister, Sarah, and I were attempting to exit the crowded courtyard of his school.  Matt is impassioned with storytelling on our walks home from kindergarten.  Sarah and I had no choice but to listen as he trumpeted out the incredible superhuman capabilities his latest super hero possessed. He spun his words as quickly as Spidey weaves and shoots his webs.

      “G-Ma, he got his super powers after he was bitten by a REAL spider that was experimented on so it was a super spider.  Spider-Man got all of the spider’s super powers from the bite.  Now he can do everything that super spiders can do.”  Matt’s eyes flashed up at me, waiting for my response.
      “Can he catch bees and flies in our backyard like a real spider, Matt?” asked three-year-old Sarah.

      “I guess if he wanted to, Sarah. But he spins bigger webs and catches bigger bugs like a burglar-bug or a bully-bug.” Matt grinned up at me, spread open his arms as web like as he could, looking quite unlike Spider-Man and more like an awkward preying mantis.  He followed his mantis-look-alike act by clapping his hands together and shouting: “Gotcha, Sarah! That’s a good one, right G-Ma?”

     “Be careful, Matt, watch out for the other people walking on the street, please.” I guided him to the storefront side of the sidewalk, away from the throng of parents and kids, grandparents and kids and caretakers/nannies picking up their charge and the cars, buses, trucks and taxis rushing down 14th Street.

      “Sarah, come over here, too, little one.”

      “Okay, G-Ma buggy-bug, okay.” Matt and Sarah often called me silly nonsense names.  I didn’t mind a bit as long as the attributes weren’t too gruesome.   

     Matt is an innate caretaker.  He exhibits extraordinary kindness toward his little sister.  He followed his clever exhibition by grabbing Sarah’s hand from mine and coaxing her to play Spider-Man all the way home.
         “Matt, I’m NOT Spider-Man.  I’m…….I’m…..Wonder Woman!  She has magic in her and turns into Spider-Girl, no…” she paused reflectively, “… into Spider-Woman. I’m Spider-Woman!  I have spider clothes over my Wonder Woman outfit. I can climb up sides of buildings just as good as you, Spider-Man.” She tore herself out of his grip and hopped up onto the steps of the Church adjoining Matt’s school.
       Sarah did not like playing the loser, or the weaker sex when my two super-grandkids played their intense make-believe after-school games.  Leaping down, she deftly spread her arms simulating airplane wings and metamorphosed them into an imaginary cape.  She ran ahead of us yelling “SpI-I-I-I-I-der Wo-man to the rescue!” at the top of her genetically Irish lungs.
     “You can’t be BOTH, Sarah.” Matt derided her super-combo-hero image. Huffing, he discontinued his Spider-Man antics, and tried to catch up to his swift and sure-footed sister.

      “Hey, you wild woman, Sarah.  Come here and hold my hand.  You know G-Ma needs to have you right next to her on the way home.”
      “Okay, G-Ma, wild woman yourself” she smartly tossed back at me.  I took her outstretched hand and hugged it in my palm.   Matt skipped along next to me dutifully grasping my other hand.  A super boy and a super girl on either side, I thought.  I’m safe from any “Green Goblin,” I mused.
      “G-Ma were any of the super heroes just regular boys like me?” Matt’s blue eyes ignited.   His questions were like raindrops kissing the arid earth, the parched pores eager to soak up drops of information that he hoped would sprout into more knowledge, more awareness of the reasons the world spun at 1,000 miles per hour under his feet.
     “You can be one, too, Matt.” Sarah wanted to appease her brother.  As is the nature of women, whether three or sixty-three, she knew when it was time to preen his “man feathers.”   Her Voice was conciliatory, apologizing in her precocious adolescent way for acting silly (in his eyes) and irritating him. She slowed down and walked at our pace so she could hear more about the super heroes.
                                                        * * *

      I loved the walk home with the kids in the late afternoon.  This was undoubtedly my learning time of the day.  The kids were really my teachers.  It was a give and take, not merely a time to impart important data or creative thoughts to Matt and Sarah.  I contributed as much information as I gave on any given subject.  Many times I was the student and they the teachers.  I appreciated their viewpoints, their takes on things I had accepted as fact. 
        I chuckled, thinking back to when my brothers attempted to fly out of the neighbor’s glorious maple tree. 

My neighbor's "Superman Tree"

      They stood on the ‘take off’ limb with arms outspread, an old sheet flapping around their necks to form they make-believe cape.  Just before they jumped from the tree limb, they yelled: “Geronimo…it’s Superman to the rescue!”  Instead of zooming off into the sky faster than a speeding bullet, they landed kerplunk on the old mattress beneath, dutifully put there to absorb their inability to defy gravity.
    I can still hear them yelling:   “…faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive,” …  and, “look, up in the sky! It’s a bird…it’s a plane…No, it’s Superman!”   Endlessly full of energy, they ran around the yard seemingly fueled by the illusion they were endowed with super powers.

     “What’s so funny, G-Ma?” Matt tugged at my backpack belt, forcing my wandering thoughts out of the past into the present.  “Tell me about Superboy?”

       “Superboy wasn’t a regular boy before growing up to become Superman.  He looked like an ordinary boy but he was from a planet called Krypton.  His parents sent him by rocket to Earth because their planet was dying.  The rocket crash landed in Kansas.  He was found by two farmers, Jon and Martha Kent.  They adopted him and named him Clark.”
      “Did he already have his powers when he got on Earth, G-Ma?” Matt was like a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge around him to fill the holes created by his questions.
      “Well, Matt, when he was born he had the capacity to have all his super powers.  His planet, Krypton, was very heavy.   So he could fly here.  You know gravity, right Matt.”
        “Yes.  At the Natural History Museum I weighed myself on the moon scale.  I didn’t weigh much.   Gravity isn’t strong on the moon.”
       “That’s right, Matt.   And the earth was like the moon to Superboy.  He could jump and fly because he was so light—like a feather.  And, he had a powerful brain.”
        “Like a special brain?” Matt asked.
        “Yes.  As I understand it, your brain, and Sarah’s, too, has thousands of little electrical-like charges zapping about called synapses.  The more stimulation, that is, interaction with people--toys to play with, exercise for example, you have as a baby--causes lots of stimuli to the synapses. The more synapses that are utilized, the more your brain powers grow.”
      I was trying to simplify a difficult concept and hoped I explained it so they could grasp my meaning.  I pulled them closer to me and gave them  walking hugs as I continued.
      “ Superboy gained his strength by absorbing energy from our sun.  By the time he became an adult he had learned how to fly, to fire heat vision from his eyes and see through walls.” 
        “Wow, G-Ma, I didn’t know he could do all that.” Matt was impressed.  Sarah added, “I didn’t either, G-Ma.  I know Superman fights bad guys. Can Matt learn to see through walls if he has lots of ‘snapses?”
            “No, Sarah, and you and the rest of us humans can’t either.  However, you both have Vigilant parents who help to stimulate your thinking processes and that is a great reason why you and Matt are so smart and creative today. They also teach you to care about others, just like Superman and Spider-Man.   Superman and Spider-Man rescue the helpless.  They have a sense of morals and justice as strong and unshakeable as a rock just like your mommy and daddy.  Your parents are Super Heroes too, they want to help people but they don’t wear capes or shoot webs from their hands.”

      I smiled as I looked down at my two little superkids.  Their eyes were glued on me.   I stopped next to a drugstore for a few minutes to share the superheroes trivia I had gleaned from a few days before.  I knew their interest would wane when we got home and their toys beckoned them.
        “We have Superman capes, G-Ma.”  Sarah reminded me.  “We have one for me, one for Matt, one for Mommy and one for Daddy.  You and G-Pa can use Mommy’s and Daddy’s if you want to play Superman tonight.”
       I admired the simple but functional capes my daughter made for the kids.   They consisted of a rectangular shaped piece of red cottony material and simply knotted around the neck.  I was amazed at how many times the little ones put them on to play an action super hero bent on helping someone.
       “Yes, little super girl, I remember your clever mommy made capes for us to wear when it was Superhero time. I think G-Pa will definitely want to join in on the super fun festivities this evening when he comes over.  He wanted to be Superman so much when he was a little boy. When he was your age, Matt, he would dash into a phone booth or into an alley and unbutton his shirt expecting to see the Golden S on a muscular fully costumed chest.”
     “Wow, G-Ma, did he change into Superman?  Did he?” Matt’s blue eyes shone as brilliantly as the blue in Superman’s costume.
        “No, G-Pa was a genuine boy, not a Superboy.  He couldn’t turn into Superman.  He tried for many years hoping to be the real Superman.”
       “ G-Ma, what about girls? Everyone says Auntie E is Wonder Woman and I’m just like her, an ‘amzon’ girl.  Was Wonder Woman a little girl just like me?
        Sarah and her Auntie E were indeed amazons.  Sarah’s aunt took great pride in being super fit.  She excels in sports and her job as a federal undercover agent requires her to maximize her physical stamina, but she retains her beauty and grace as a feminine woman.  Many friends of the family comment on how  Sarah reminds them of Auntie E.  Sarah already was unbelievably coordinated and strong like her aunt. One of Auntie E’s coworkers complimented Sarah with “Your little niece is an amazon just like you, E.”
      Sarah continued with her questions. “Where did Wonder Woman come from, G-Ma?  Were her parents aliens from outer space, too?” She thrust her hand into mine and forcefully ejected Matt from my side, taking command.   Her face displayed that look of dominance over the situation and me, her after-school information source.    
      “G-Ma,” Matt whined, “Sarah shoved and pushed me. She’s in my spot.” He tried to wrench her hand free of mine but was unsuccessful, a scowl furrowed on his forehead where a few minutes earlier he had been beaming with excitement.
      “Hey, little ones.  Let’s all calm down and practice patience a bit.  Matt, I answered some of your questions and now it’s Sarah’s turn.”
     I didn’t have to referee too often.  It wasn’t that unusual for Sarah to get the better of Matt in the few physical spats they enjoyed.  Both their parents dissuaded them from any and all degrees of violence. 
     Sarah pushed Matt away with her balled up fist.  “Sarah, no more punching Matt, please.”  Sarah awkwardly winked at me, one of those “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” winks that women share regardless of age. 
       I was up on my information about Wonder Woman.  Sarah’s aunt E was teasingly (and admiringly) called Wonder Woman for her physical agility and daring.  I checked either side of me to ensure there were no ongoing arguments and both superkids were ready to listen, then continued our “educational march” toward their apartment.  I leaned over as we walked and spoke so they could both hear me.
     “Wonder Woman was the creation of Dr. William Moulton Marston and  Charles (Max) Gaines, the head of Detective (DC) Comics.  You both know she has great strength, power of flight, bullet-deflecting bracelets and lots of classy style.  Dr. Marston was an educational consultant for Detective Comics.   He saw only images of super men such as Green Lantern, Batman, Superman and other male heroes.  He wondered why there wasn’t a female hero.  He was the creator of the lie detector test and was convinced that women were more honest and reliable than men and could work faster and more accurate over time.  Dr. Marston championed the causes of women.”
     “I don’t understand, G-Ma.  What’s a champion of women?”  Matt’s concern and the questions in Sarah’s eyes made me realize I had given a three and a five-year-old too much information, expecting them to understand it all.  I needed to simplify my super tale, I thought.
      “A ‘champion of women’ is someone who respects and honors women.  The two men created a comic book character that would be respected and honored as well as one who was strong and beautiful. They combined their talents and their names, and so Wonder Woman was developed by … Charles Moulton.”
      “G-Ma, Charles is from the Comic Book man and Moulton is from the Doctor. I get it.”
      I wasn’t surprised that Professor Matt would pick up on the name combination.    “Wonder Woman embodies the true-to-life-true fantasy characteristics of women and girls everywhere.  I mean that most women and girls want to be like her.  Her magic lasso is a symbol of her charm, allure, and attraction of every woman and/or man she uses that power on whom she wants to influence or control in any way.”
      “G-Ma, the Wonder Woman doll you gave me has a lasso, too, a gold one.  It fits on my doll and she can throw it.”  Sarah demonstrated on Matt trying to throw the sleeve of her sweater over his head.  Matt shrieked.
      “Make her stop, G-Ma.  I’m so tired of her bothering me.” Matt shrugged in disgust and glared at his impish sister.  He wasn’t in to hearing about super heroes who were women.   But I also knew his great hero was his sister.   He protected her with a ferocity equal to a pit bull when anyone tried to hurt her feelings, or in any way threatened her physical or emotional self.  I knew he would like to know the history of Wonder Woman even though he huffed and grumped about it.
          I loved reading about the history behind Wonder Woman.  Her creators knew what women and men wanted in a Super Hero.  In 1940 they created a “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should rule the world.” They realized the remedy of the weak woman was to create a character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.  Instead of tossing a weapon, Wonder Woman tosses words, glances, gestures, and best of all, laughter.  She snares the attention of her would-be victim and binds him or her with her charm.  Wonder Woman’s charm is the one bond that can be made strong enough to hold onto logic, common sense, or counterattack.  I wondered what the hardcore women libbers think about Wonder Woman. I was with Sarah--I wanted to be Wonder Woman, too, but, I didn’t want to confuse my little ones any more than I already had, so I didn’t tell them all the facts I had found out in googling the Internet. 
     “But G-Ma, where did she come from?  I asked you that already.” Sarah’s face contorted into her sour apple-faced grimace.  She could distort her facial features and expressions in an instant ranging from a lovely angel to a rascally clown in the short span of a New York minute.
        “Right, Sarah, I didn’t forget.  I just wanted to tell you most of what I know about Wonder Woman.   Let’s see if I remember.  Oh, yes,  she was a cavewoman’s child.  She survived time and entered a powerful society of women whose greatest champion is one who leaves the security of home to venture into our world.  She was a Princess on an island hidden in space and has come to be one of Earth’s greatest warriors.  Like Superman, she dons her uniform when needed by the helpless or people being scared or Terrorized by bad people.  Her name is Diana of Themyscira.  Her golden coronet or crown is a constant symbol of our nation and our hope and dreams. And, Matt and Sarah, be sure to tell your mom, she is also an ambassador of peace just like your mommy is.”
      As we neared their apartment, my Spiderboy-Matt and my Wondergirl Sarah raced to press their building’s ‘buzzard’.   Sarah’s strong legs and dogged determination to be first overshadowed Matt’s vainglorious attempt to beat her. Sarah pushed the button and glanced over her shoulder gleefully.
        “G-Ma, it was my turn to buzz.” Matt’s eyes brimmed with tears as we entered the apartment.      “Next time will be your turn, Matt.  Let’s have some juice and relax a bit before doing homework.”
      Matt d plopped on the couch and dropped his backpack on the floor in front of him.  Sarah did not follow suit.  Instead, she nimbly climbed on top of the  kitchen counter to get the red capes her mommy had made for the Super Family.  The minimal climbing available to her in her apartment was not as difficult as her workouts each Friday morning in her gymnastics class.  She easily grabbed the red capes and yanked them to the floor, pulling down several other items as well. She tied a cape around her neck and danced around the room.
         Matt momentarily snuggled next to me on the couch and then he and I readied ourselves for Sarah’s pounce.  She took a running leap toward us yelling “Ready or not.  Here comes Wondergirl.”
         Matt groaned.  “G-Ma, go on with your Super Heroes story, please.  Don’t stop even though Sarah is disturbing us A LOT.”  He threw back his head  in disgust and irritation.  “Uggggghhhhhhhh, Sarahhhhhh.  Quit it and listen.”
      “Waaaa…Waaaaa…I’m Super Diaper Baby now.  Waaaa…Waaaaa.” Sarah collapsed on all fours to the floor, and pranced like a spider gracefully dropping off its web. She tied the red cape diaper style around her bottom and crawled over to the couch to continue to pester Matt.  As she neared us readying to light upon her prey, I quickly threw up a roadblock.
        “Sarah, much as I love Super Diaper Baby, I remember a few details about one more Super Hero, Captain America.  He’s a better Super Hero than the little Super Diaper Baby we read about in Matt’s new book. Do you want me to tell you about Captain America? You know about Batman already. Remember, I bought you the little Batman pajamas last summer.”
       I hoped the kids wouldn’t be too belabored with all my information.  I love the Super Heroes and think playing with their related toys is a fun thing for kids. 
      “I like the name, G-Ma,” Matt said.  We live in America.  We live in North America. I made a map and mommy put it on the kitchen door with the one Matt made last year.”  Sarah’s chest puffed while Matt’s frown grew. Sarah removed her Super Diaper Baby diaper and bounced onto the couch.
      “G-Ma, just get on with the story.  I want to hear about Captain America, too.” Matt grudgingly made room for his rascally Wonder Sister.  Both super kids at last cozied on the couch to listen.
      “Captain America was another powerful hero.  He was also created by two men – Joe Simon and Jack Kirby – one year after Wonder Woman was created.  These men wanted a hero to stand for all the things the United States stood for.  They needed a hero that could win over lots of difficulties. And so, Captain America was created.  What made him different from all the other Super Heroes was that he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to take the fight for freedom to our enemy in Germany.”
     “I don’t understand, G-Ma, you told us you are German.  Were you there when our country had an enemy in Germany.  I know where Germany is, it’s in Europe.”  Matt leaped off the couch and over to his world map above Sarah’s and pointed to Germany.
       I answered her utilizing my limited German. “Meine liebchen, my mother is German and so I’m of German descent just like you are Irish because your Daddy’s parents are Irish.  I never lived in Germany and when Germany was the enemy of the United States, I was a tiny baby.  Der fuhrer is the nickname of Adoph Hitler the person responsible for our war with Germany.  He was not a good man and Captain America was given a Super-Soldier serum that turned him into the ultimate soldier to fight against the evil Hitler. 
       “Captain America’s real name was Steve Rogers.  He was America’s super-patriot.  He helped stat the World War II super-group, The Invaders.  He continues to be the inspiration to his countrymen that he was created to be.  There was a special poster of him in which he honored our NYPD and FDNY heroes of September 11.”
        “G-Ma, did you know six firefighters from our Firestation down the street died?  I drew a picture of them for the station to put up.  Are there real Super Heroes, G-Ma?  I know Spider Man isn’t really real.”
      Matt was suddenly very serious. He wore his ‘old man look’.  He took the loss of his special firemen hard and occasionally still talks about them. Several weeks ago, he asked me to go down to the station to show me where their names are painted on the front of the firetruck.”
      “Mommy says Spidey and Wonder Woman are good for our ‘maginations and are fun to play.  Mommy says we can wear our Super capes anytime we want to.  Mommy says she likes the Super Heroes.” 
      “Who are you going to be Matt? Sarah shrilled as she tied the ‘used’ diaper, now cape again, around her neck and handed him his super wardrobe.  I’m Wooonnnnnderrrr Girl and I’m a Suuuuuuppppperrr Hero.”
         Matt was quiet for a moment, looked up at me and softly said “I’m going to be one of the Firemen or the Policemen. They are our real heroes.  They are always doing dangerous jobs to rescue people and animals and save buildings or save us from the bad guys. They are everyday heroes, G-Ma.”   His words weren’t a question.  He wasn’t asking for confirmation.  He was making a statement of fact, letting me know he didn’t support to believe in what he believed.
       I was continually amazed and pleased by Matt’s tremendous sensitivity and realism.   He didn’t just have a kind and caring heart, but was gifted.  His Parents of Vigilance had stimulated his synapses constantly, creating his thirst for knowledge, and passed that same hunger on to his sister.
      Sarah, a quick study and also having thousands of stimulated synapses as well, untied her cape as she donned a toy Fire Chief hat and handed one to Matt.
      “Okay, Matt, now we’ll play real heroes.  She handed Matt a plastic toy Fire Helmet.”
      “Wow, is G-Ma ever proud of her super heroes, you little firefighters.  You know, there are super boys and girls, children like you, who are good, kind and do their best just as you do.  The same is true for mommies and daddies, and grandmas and grandpas.  Those caretakers who are Vigilant at being good parents or grandparents and who talk to the children with understanding and take the Right Action, will succeed in teaching their children to be the best they can be and to help others. You children and those who are not Complacent about their special purposes in life are the new generation of super heroes.”
      It was easy for me to decide which prop to wear to play with my two super grandkids.  So, I, too, donned a Fire Chief hat and tied a red cape around my neck and joined in on the fun. 
         New York City has been called by the rest of the country, a City of Heroes.  The extraordinary courage of ordinary people who came to the aid of others in need, helped turn one of our darkest days into our finest hour. Our real-world heroes, men and women who saved lives with no thought for their own personal safety and without super powers, were armed only with their Courage and Right Action.  I believe it is healthy for children to play Super Heroes as long as they know there are real heroes among the people in their homes and cities.  And as long as they know they can be real heroes too by doing their best and helping others


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