Aaron was a few years older than me, and quite different from the other kids in the neighborhood. While other boys were playing tackle football or frying ants with magnifying glasses, Aaron was tucked in his basement drawing pictures of dragons and super heroes. I was a little torn. I certainly wanted to be the kind of eight year-old that threw mud at houses, but I was pretty sure Aaron was tapped into something I wanted to be a part of.
Halloween was approaching and I had already decided I wasn’t going to be a fireman again. I wandered across the street and asked Aaron if thought he could turn me into a super-hero. He was happy to give it a shot. A few days later, I had been transformed from scrawny third-grader into Thunderbolt: super third-grader, who miraculously survived being struck by lightning and subsequently developed the the power to change the weather. Thunderbolt could harness the wind to help him fly, summon earthquakes to foil the bad guy and generally make rainy days sunny. At first Thunderbolt only existed on paper – yellow tights, super goggles, lightning flash across the chest – but by Halloween, I had my very-own-one-of-a-kind costume. (A special shout out to my late Granny who sewed the lightning bolt to my leotard.) But more important than having the most unique Halloween costume on the planet, I knew then that I also had a destiny.
By Christmastime, Thunderbolt had pretty much disappeared – not much need for a super weather changer in our sleepy rural Virginia town – but I never surrendered the dream of becoming a crime fighting hero, or a space travelling gun-slinger, or a dragon slaying knight. Fueled by Star Wars and the “A-Team” and boxes upon boxes of comic books, I cultivated a growing appreciation for, if not fascination, with the possiblity of a bigger, more amazing story.
Alas, as fantasy faded into reality, and as I became more interested in reading books that didn’t feature colorful action panels and penciled dialogue, but I never lost my faith in the incredible. This last year, however, has tested that faith. Suffice to say, I was never struck by lightning, or bitten by a radioactive spider, or secretly drafted into a covert military unit. But, I still believe that the incredible is possible and that I am part of a bigger story.
I mean, I believe, right?
I have to. Because, despite my lack of a super-power, I have a family. My wife needs a knight in shining armor…or at least someone she can count on to clean out the drain under the sink. And I have two little girls. And they need to believe in a hero.