For a long time, early in my life, I held on to the hope that superheroes were real. Bitten by a radioactive spider? Struck by lightning after being doused in chemicals? The result of Vita-Rays mixed with a healthy dosage of Super Soldier Serum? What’s so difficult to believe about that?
Enabling my hope were stories I heard about people using adrenaline in extreme situations to do amazing things. Sometimes I would wait at my bedroom window for an alien spacecraft to crash land in my backyard, and its alien pilot wanting to bestow on me superpowers. As far as I was concerned, if Santa Claus were real, then why not people leaping tall buildings in a single bound, webslinging, and fighting for truth, justice, and the American way? Besides, I had a cape. A cape screams of being a superhero.
Then I found out the truth. About the same time I found out about Santa Claus, I started to piece together the likelihood that my favorite superheroes were not real (which explained why I could never find Gotham City on a map). I eventually and begrudgingly accepted there was no Batman, no Captain America, and no Thor (I also began making plans for a new career in life around this time). The heroes in my comic books were to stay on the pages of those books. That is until one 4th of July weekend.
Every Fourth of July, my family and I would go to Gini’s house. Gini is my mom’s best friend and is as close to me as any aunt or relative. Gini lived close by to where fireworks were set off for the 4th, so every year we went to their 4th of July party. She lived in one of a series of row homes in Shillington, Pennsylvania (if the Hall of Justice was for heroes, Shillington is for the suburbs). Along with sharing load bearing walls, Gini and her neighbors also shared backyards. From the back patios, which were partially hidden from the yards by bushes, you walked down 3 steps into the backyards which were only separated by thin strips of cement and varying elevations. All the neighbors got together for the 4th of July. We ate, drank, and played. Parents ate, drank, and watched their kids run around the backyards.
It was a typical 4th of July at Gini’s. The kids were running around and parents were eating and drinking on the patios. The sun was starting to go down and the grass formed a layer of dew on it. I was in mid-sprint between the yards, expertly negotiating the different elevations to avoid being tagged “IT” when disaster struck. I started towards a cement strip when I lost my footing. I first hit the grass but then, because it was wet, I kept sliding (Wet grass. Mother Nature’s slip’n’slide.). I slid along the grass then got to the thin strip of cement separating Gini’s yard from her neighbor’s yard.
The cement strip took my skin and left me to contend with a bloody leg. The cement also left me with pain. It shot through my body and exited through my vocal chords. I screamed out in pain towards my parents. The three foot high bushes, dividing the backyard and the end of the patio, hid my parents. All I could make out were their heads silhouetted by a spotlight shining from the porch. I saw their heads turn when they heard me.
Then I saw him. He burst up from his chair and in an instant he was airborne. In one leap, my father had jumped over the three foot high bushes, landed on his feet in the wet grass, and without missing a beat, began a full on sprint to get to me. Time had stopped, or at least slowed down (think the van falling off the bridge in ‘Inception’ slow) while he was in the air. I can still see my dad in mid-air. It was a scene right out of a comic book splash page.
I’m not sure when the pain finally stopped thumping in my leg, but I know I forgot about it as soon as he had picked me up in his arms. My dad carried me up to the patio where my mom was already waiting with Bactine and band-aids (I thought the Flash was fast up until that point) to clean me up. It wasn’t long before I was in the backyard again playing and bragging to everyone about how my dad jumped over the bushes to save me.
I found out as a kid, superheroes weren’t real. No webslinging. No oath’s to say. No super strength from gamma radiation. I was well aware of this fact when I lost a fight with the cement strip in Gini’s backyard. Yet despite what I knew, for that one moment on that July 4th weekend, superheroes were real again. It was my dad. And he leaped tall bushes in a single bound just to get to me.