My favorite age to do just about anything with a child is around 4 years old. They’re out of that baby stage, have no inhibitions, think the world revolves around their little lives, are full of a genuine lust for learning, and can make you smile out loud with their words, thoughts and actions. After that, the snark quickly sets in and the questioning of authority, and you start saying things like “because I said so”.
This is my little man at about 4. Everything this boy touched transmogrified (thank you, Calvin & Hobbes for that awesome word) into a Super Hero accessory. This “sword” was, in its earlier life, his little sister’s glitter baton which had been tied with a ribbon found in my craft supplies so he could wear it “ninja style” around his neck. His “mask” was of course, a swim goggle worn upside down so it fit more like a mask and less like a goggle, but when he donned both of those accessories he became a certified super hero limited only by his imagination. And he had plenty of that.
He was an 80’s baby, so his heroes were aplenty. Superman was at the top of the list, but he also loved He-Man, Thundercats, Batman, all the Ninja Turtles and every DC comic book character there was. Every single one. He knew their background story, their powers, their weaknesses, and their arch enemies. He had super hero underwear, super hero pj's, a super hero toothbrush, and super hero sheets.
He knew that Jor-El and Lor-El were Superman’s birth parents from the planet Krypton, and that John and Martha Kent were his Earth parents. The first movie he ever went to see was not a kiddy Disney movie, but Superman IV, the Quest for Peace. He went with his dad, and I (lucky me) got to sit through The Chipmunk Adventure with his little sister in an adjoining theater. It was definitely the short stick draw for me, but was the absolute highlight of my little man's day.
He could, and did, sing the theme song to all of the cartoons on TV. He-Man was one of his favorites to watch. He stood to sing the He-Man song, holding his imaginary sword in the air. That magical sword harnessed the power of the mysterious Castle Greyskull and transformed Prince Adam into He-Man. For that moment, he was He-Man, with his neck veins protruding from saying “I HAVE THE POWER!” with all his little might.
On most days, my little SH had some sort of cape attached to his neck by a clothespin, and I’m sure it made him run faster and have big muscles. Usually it was fashioned from a kitchen towel, but he had a plethora of capes from Halloween costumes to choose from. Most had been tied so many times the strings were all broken, so that clothespin came in handy. We had many excursions out in the “real” world fully costumed. He walked tall and proud and totally “in-character”. I got a lot of looks at the grocery store and post office, but they were sweet looks and not the “OMG, you poor thing” looks. He had the Superman stance perfected with his fisted hands on his hips, feet spread and his head looking to one side.
One of his plastic Halloween masks from a Superman costume had the traditional Superman haircut – you know, the one with that little swirl in the front. He once asked me “the next time you cut my hair, could you please cut it like Superman's?”. I knew exactly what he wanted... it was that little swirl in the front. Oh, if only I could have, but alas he was blessed with stick straight hair and no amount of product was going to produce that swirl. It made my life interesting and full of smiles and warmed my heart like only a mother’s heart could be warmed.
He was adorable and an incredibly happy little boy. My little SH is 30 now and still has that warm, happy heart he had at 4. He’s a good man, with the same nerdy panache for super hero trivia, and can still melt my heart. He’s intelligent and loving and considerate, and most important to me, he’s kind. A good human being, plain and simple.
I treasure my memories of you in your carefree moments of imaginary role-playing. You sure were good at it. I love you, little man. “Up, up, and away!”