The superheroes first made an appearance in our home during the Halloween season of 1988. Our son Andy was 3; David, who was just 15 months old, was running a fever. Yet he pulled himself together long enough to don the Superman pajamas his grandmother, Connie Barr, had sent from Connecticut and walk with us down the street to trick-or-treat at a few of the nearby houses. Then, exhausted, he helped me answer the door as Andy and his father foraged further. Superman, as you know, is brave and self-sacrificing. Especially when his pride (and candy) are at stake.
A month later, a different kind of superhero emerged: the firefighter. Our sons donned bright red plastic helmets, boarded their “fire truck” and sirened, “REE-oh, REE-oh,” as big brother Andy furiously pedaled his trusty sidekick around in circles on the back patio.
The Disney movie “Dumbo” was big in our house that year. Andy would watch it endlessly, perched on my stepladder, his fireman’s hat in place, pretending to put out the fire as the clown fire fighters in the movie tried to do the same.
Superman made a repeat performance for Andy’s fourth birthday. We staged a “Super Sloppy, Super Heroes Birthday Party” in the backyard. He and his friends wore costumes, capes (or simply swimsuits) as they fought ferocious battles with shaving cream and spray bottles. We modeled the party after a TV show that was popular at the time called “Super Sloppy Double Dare,” a children’s game show that Nickelodeon soon purchased and renamed “Family Double Dare.”
The invitations I made invited kids to enjoy “all kinds of super sloppy fun, including the Amazing Super Silly Sudsing Machine” (my carpet cleaner, which generated suds like nothing you’ve ever seen.) Moms were reassured that “all sloppy stuff will be the washable kind.”
Spacemen. Now those guys are true superheroes. So when yet another box of costumes arrived from their grandmother Barr (did I mention she was a theater major in college?), our sons eagerly incorporated planets, aliens and laser guns into their pretend play. The costumes were gifts for two boys whose birthdays were a mere 12 days apart each July, making the entire month something of a celebration. Their fascination with spacemen extended well into fall, making for easy costume decisions when Halloween rolled around.
Our sons moved on to become Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters. I soon forgot what they looked like in regular clothes. I got used to tripping over weapons and helmets and elaborate fortresses they created with blankets atop the living room sofa.
The superheroes made one last, heroic appearance when Batman and Robin showed up in the spring of 1990. By the next year, the boys had found a new kind of superhero: the kind with big muscles who throw footballs or baseballs or make amazing three-pointers on the basketball court. Pretend play gave way to real competition on soccer and T-ball fields, followed by Little League and Pop Warner fields and eventually high school and college football and lacrosse fields.
Both of our sons are now college graduates and working professionals with exciting, meaningful jobs in Washington, D.C.
Superheroes in their own right.