It was never my intention for the girls down the street to see me in my Superman suit.
My mother, a talented and inventive seamstress, had made me the outfit after I had become addicted to the Superman TV series starring George Reeves. It was a harmless diversion for an 8 year old.
Among the boys on Mount Airy Drive, I was the wimp. Tommy Roper, Earl Garvin and Louie Harper were the men of the street, testosterone-laced boys who rode their bikes full tilt into the woods, hit home runs and would touch a snake. It wasn’t that I was ostracized. I was always part of the group, rarely made fun of, and ready for anything that my fearful little nature didn’t prevent.
But I anguished over my lack of biceps, and knew that my preference for books over baseball was a sign of a congenital deformity and a future of tea parties instead of hikes.
I finally made first class scout after accumulating just enough merit badges and giving a kid 2 bucks to say I passed the swimming test.
So when Superman came upon my scene, I was transformed. Here was a story written just for me. Wimpy little ole Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter, probably afraid of snakes and no more than a Second Class Scout, with this really great secret: he was better than them all.
My intent was to wear my Superman suit around the house and yard, out of site of the neighborhood. I played well alone, and my fantasies kept my occupied for days. (And they still do.) The actual suit consisted of a pair of long johns dyed blue, a big “S” in the middle of the shirt, a pair of red briefs made out of silk, and a nifty red cape.
I was hot stuff.
I played in the suit in the privacy of my yard for several weeks, rescuing my Pekinese dog Buttons from all manner of evils and villains, whether he wanted to be rescued or not.
It was a beautiful fall afternoon when Superman first ventured forth from his kingdom. I was playing down the street with Tommy Johnson, who, like me, had a vacant lot next to his house. The lot had served us well in all manner of fantasies and excursions, and we were well into a game of good guys and bad guys when it hit me that this was a job that called for Superman.
I ran home, changed into my suit, and returned to Tommy’s lot. He had known nothing of the suit, embraced the fantasy without ridicule and we set about saving the world.
That’s when the girls appeared.
Tommy and I were lost in a world of vengeance and mayhem, leaping and shouting from rock to log, when he spotted them. “Hey! It’s Jeanie and Judy.”
At that precise moment my circumstances became clear: Two girls who went to church with me would see me and then tell every living creature in the English speaking world I had been running around in the woods wearing dyed blue underwear while pretending to be Superman..
The girls stood between me and any clear line of escape. They had not seen me yet, so I ducked into Tommy’s garage and pulled the metal overhead door down.
Tommy, bless his heart, did not see me as an eight year old in blue underwear. He thought the suit was way cool, and couldn’t figure out why I was hiding. So he made a valiant effort to open the door to the garage, encouraging me to come out. The girls joined the encouragement, shouting “Come on out, Superman!”
I would have taken my life with a brick before I opened that door.
Eventually, the girls tired of the game and left. I slunk home and never wore the suit again.
I realize now that, up to the minute I was about to be busted for impersonating Superman, I loved wearing that suit. It was empowering. Underwear dyed blue? Absolutely. But I was still Superman.
Every year there’s a convention in Atlanta called DragonCon. Sci Fi fans from around the world show up for seminars, parties, and fun. And everybody dresses like his or her favorite character.
I used to think all this was kind of stupid, until I thought back to my day as Superman.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Every day do one thing that scares you.” Good advice. I’ve driven a racecar around Atlanta Motor Speedway at 150 mph. I like zip lines, and I’ve done stand-up comedy at the Punchline.
It may be time for Superman to make an appearance. Rebecca will make me a suit. She can make the suit out of Spandex!
I already can hear my fans shouting: “Come on out, Superman!”