Back when I was five- or six-years-old, I wanted, more than anything, to grow up to be Superman. I hadn’t gone to first grade yet, so I hadn’t been taught to read, but once I figured out that The Adventures of Superman was on TV weekday afternoons at 3:30, I’d be glued to the set each day. I can hear the announcer now…
“Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!”
“Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands; and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”
“And now, another episode in the exciting Adventures of Superman!”
And then the theme music would play! Dah dah daaaaahhhh dah tah tah taaaaaahhhh!
Superman could do it all.
When I wasn’t watching the show or outside throwing dirt clods with/at my friends, and especially on rainy days when I couldn’t go outside, I’d find my youngest sister’s baby blanket. I’d get some sheets of notebook paper and upon them I’d scrawl the best “S” I could and then use safety pins to affix one sheet to the blanket and the other to the front of my T-shirt. Then, vocalizing the accompanying ffffffsssshhhhhheewwwww sound, I’d fly up and down our hallway, sometimes changing my route to carry me through the kitchen and back into the living room, running as fast as I could to get the blanket to flap behind me. Granted the pink blanket, yellow ducky safety pin with which I’d fastened it around my neck and the two sheets of notebook paper weren’t quite as authentic as I’d wished, but it got the job done.
To make my leap into the air all the more theatrical, I’d begin each flight from the couch; the extra height giving me superior lift-off. Then I’d ffsshheeww up and down the hall, in and out of bedrooms and round and round the house until I (began to run out of steam and) came in for a landing on the same couch. Our house had hardwood floors and with each impact I made, the little metal discs on the bottom of each leg would slide easily across the floor. This caused the couch to slam into the wall and often elicited a distant vocal reprimand from my mother, who was somewhere else in the house, but could somehow hear the crash and feel the resounding vibrations the couch made upon the wall just below that large, picture window.
When you have powers and abilities far beyond those or mortal men, how do you explain to a mere human that you can’t be bothered with couches, crumbling drywall and the like?
Another issue which seemed to concern my parents was why the draperies were tearing away from their hooks along the curtain rod to which they were secured and why their weight was always loosening the drywall screws which held said rods to the wall.
I had an inkling of an idea as to the reason.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion quite accurately explains why, when I launched a mission from the couch, the reverse thrust shoved the couch to the wall, thusly pinning the draperies snugly there against. Most times when I came in for my inevitable landing, my angle of approach was diagonal to the couch, thereby giving me more “couch space” on which to come to rest. Coming in at a more upright and perpendicular trajectory would increase the odds that I’d pitch forward and smash through the window and plummet to the patio slab two storied below.
Since, in response to my takeoff, the couch was already pressing the draperies to the wall, my momentum upon landing with that diagonal approach would cause the couch to tightly hold the curtains against the wall and yank them a few inches along it. I have no doubt that this was the cause of the tearing of the tops of the draperies against their attachment hooks as well as the loosening of the drywall screws where the rods were mounted to the wall. But I somehow never managed to offer my opinion when my parents both stood there, hands scratching heads in curiosity as to the strange occurrence.
In those days and later, I even dreamt of being Superman. And in my dreams I’d be really flying and I’d save my classmates, one-by-one from our burning school. Having a flare for the dramatic even then, I’d always save the cutest girl for second to the last and my teacher, Miss Blair, for last. (Insert here the wheezing sigh of an old man as he recalls the life-long crush he’s had on his first grade teacher…)
Those dreams would always end with me flying high above the school, turning to look down on the crowd of excited classmates, arriving fire trucks and police cars and, of course, a grateful Miss Blair. Then I’d inexplicably lose the ability to fly and I’d drop from the sky as suddenly as if I’d been standing on a trap door. And each time, just before hitting the ground, I’d awaken from my dream with a terrible lurch. According to Sigmund Freud, that was a sex dream… Wait. According to Freud, all dreams are sex dreams. He said dreams like this had to do with fears of impotence. What the heck that had to do with a six-year-old, is beyond me. All I know is that, in my dreams, my powers failed me right at the height of the adventure. It was always after I’d saved everyone—and they and the arriving first-responders were looking up to me in awe—that the bottom would fall out of my abilities and I’d heave myself awake from the dream, back to my dark bedroom and reality.
Okay. I’m all grown up now. More than a half century has passed since my dreams of being Superman. (I’ll not comment here on Freudian dreams during adulthood.) But, if I could have any powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, what would I want now?
I think I’d like the power to mind my own business. I’d like the ability to leave people to their issues and to not get sucked into the drama of others. I’d like to not get bogged down in the minutia of this world, to remember that everything in this world is temporary. I’d like the power to remember that kindness and Love are the most valuable commodities. I’d like the ability, especially in times of tribulation and/or stress, to remember that life is eternal and that I’d be able to view everything from that perspective. Those are the powers on which I choose to focus. I’ll see what I can do.
Dah dah daaaaahhhh dah tah tah taaaaaahhhh!