In the early days of my childhood I was influenced by the characters I saw on television. The standard cowboy or soldier did not stay with me for long. I was attached to one superhero. I believed then and do now that Superman was the best of the lot, an all-inclusive power machine.
My parents did not have the disposable income to purchase a store-bought Superman costume. So before my mother sent me out to rid the world of crime, she pulled an old blue shirt of my father’s out of the rag-bag and painted a red “S” on the front. For my cape, she attached a bleached-out towel to my shirt with duck-head diaper pins. Not quite the impressive wardrobe transformation of Clark Kent in the phone booth, but my mother’s genius proved worthy in the moment of creative invention.
I tested my super powers against the laws of nature leaping from the roof of our garage or from the ledge of our tree house or flinging myself from the tire-swing at the apex of its swing. The sound of my cape flapping in the wind was my heroic underscoring.
I kept the neighborhood crime-free until one day my super powers could not override poor judgment. I was in pursuit of two friends who drew the lot of “bad guy” in our after-school, make-believe play time. When they dashed into a hedge separating one backyard from another, I made a split-second decision. I assumed their intention was to emerge on the other side, and if my timing was right, I would fly over the hedge and crash on top of them just like on television.
I realized too late that I had miscalculated my foes cunning nature. They remained hidden inside the thick hedge. As I soared over the hedge I had not considered the possibility that my cape might get caught in the thick greenery. In mid-flight my cape was snagged, my forward momentum halted, and I was thrust back into the prickly branches.
My shirt and cape were shredded, my flesh was cut and scraped, and my Adam’s apple felt as if it was knocked to the back of my throat. I slogged home under a cloud of damaged pride, a grounded mortal, threw my costume back into the rag-bag, and went into disgraced exile. Gravity may have won that, but a dynamic imagination has kept me airborne ever since.