Senator, I am no June Cleaver. I don’t claim to be a spectacular parent. If anything, I see myself as overwhelmingly flawed and barely able to maintain a home, organize a family, and see to it that my kids get wherever they’re supposed to be at any certain time on any given day. So when my 10 year old son, Eli, announced that he wanted to be Captain America for Super Hero Day, which happened to fall on Halloween this year, I thought, “Oh well, here’s another lost opportunity for me to come through as a mother.”
I had a busy schedule the day before Halloween and Eli’s pronouncement seemed like an overwhelming burden for which I had neither the time nor the money to shoulder. But at lunchtime I found myself at a Party City store combing the aisles for Cap’n America. To my good fortune, there was a child-sized costume for $19.95 and a shield for only $24. Wow, what a bargain. I could buy one or the other and still have money for groceries. We’re living on a strict, Dave Ramsey type budget these days and I’m looking at $30 in my wallet to get us through to the 10th of November. Okay, be responsible. I cannot spend $44 on a tin shield and flimsy muscle tee that he’ll wear once and discard. No. I am not gonna do it.
I successfully left Party City and went on to my lunch and afternoon meetings. But with an extra 15 minutes and Good Will right across the street from my 2pm, I thought I’d duck in and see if there happened to be a slightly used version of my sought after super hero. No such luck. But for $1.99 I picked up an old dart board and a red shirt and threw them in the back of my car.
I couldn’t wait to get home and start working on my creation. I googled Captain America, looked at the picture and concluded that this was a hopeless endeavor. Then, in spite of myself, I grabbed some old t-shirts, a bottle of fabric glue and pulled out my painting supplies. I spent the next three hours recreating the Captain America ensemble I’d downloaded from the internet.
For those of you who don’t know Eli, let’s just say he can be hard to please. If 99% of his day goes well, he’s the kid who focuses on the 1% that didn’t. So as I worked I couldn’t help but wonder how he might react to my home-made outfit. I imagined multiple scenarios, kind of like my own version of Borges “Garden of Forking Paths.” In one, Eli sat weeping as he gazed upon my makeshift costume. In another, my happy little boy stood toe to toe with a cadre of 5th grade bullies taunting him that he looked nothing like Captain America. My final parallel universe shot two decades into the future. I envisioned Eli, in therapy, as a grown man, feeling overwhelming remorse for rejecting his mother’s costume and consequently her love so many Halloweens ago. There was no version of reality that could have predicted Eli’s actual response.
It took me a moment to realize that someone was watching me. I looked up and saw Eli standing in the archway of my office staring at my creation. “Whoa, mom,” he sputtered. “That is the coolest Captain America costume EVER! I love it! Thank you so much for
working so hard on it.” The genuine delight and appreciation in his eyes filled me with so much joy I could hardly contain myself. I told myself to act cool, to not appear too needy. “Oh…I’m glad you like it,” I replied trying to sound indifferent. “Just threw it together for ya.”
He wore the costume all day at school and couldn’t wait to hit the streets for trick or treating in the evening. On the way home from school he told me over and over again how much he loved it. This was a massive victory on my front. But just as I began to celebrate my success he piped up from the back seat, “Mom, there’s just one thing I need to tell you about the costume.” I felt the full weight of disappointment descend as the wind slowly seeped from my sails. “Yeah?” I tentatively acknowledged, “What is it?” “You’re gonna need to reglue a couple of the stripes on my t-shirt,” he smiled. “Cause I am definitely wearing this costume next year!”