The Many Varieties of Superheroes

There are two kinds of superheroes in the world. There are the ones who wear spandex and throw shields at people, and there are the ones who are willing to play seventy-two rounds of Mad Libs with a nine-year-old on a rainy afternoon. Last weekend, our lives were enriched by both kinds of legendary beings.

My son’s eighth birthday is hovering on the horizon and, in lieu of a big party, I took him and two friends to Marvel Universe Live in Lexington last weekend. It’s a big, dramatic affair with a loose plot line and lots of over-the-top combat scenes, accompanied by sparks, smoke machines, and laser lights. Think “Disney on Ice” but with no ice and more punching. If there is anything that brings more joy to the soul of a third grade boy than being twenty feet away from Iron Man in full butt-kicking mode, I can’t think what it might be.

The young men were completely beside themselves with glee, fueled by the exorbitantly overpriced snow cones each devoured upon arrival. I got caught up in the mania and also bought them each a light-up sword. My son gallantly vowed to use his weapon to protect me from the villains and pointed it menacingly at the bad guys throughout the show, narrowly avoiding whacking the person in front of us on more than one occasion.

Spiderman flew through the air; Black Widow did motorcycle tricks; people banged on drums with flaming batons. (I’m not entirely sure why.) It was fabulous.

I think I probably deserve at least partial credit as a superhero, too, for accompanying the hooligans on this adventure. It was a high-octane outing. I’ve taken my daughter on a few group excursions with her friends, but this was my first time shepherding a pack of boys somewhere. I’m not going to say that the girls are better company, but I am going to say that they don’t have fart competitions in the car when they get bored.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my mom’s sister came down from Cincinnati to stay with my girls while the boys and I enjoyed the show. My aunt is a superhero, too. She loves my kids fiercely and they worship the ground she walks on. They vie ceaselessly for her attention, desperate to show her their artwork, cartwheels, new shoes, and boogers, and she never fails to muster gracious interest in every one of those things.

She makes them brownies, laughs at their knock-knock jokes, and takes them puddle walking through the neighborhood in the pouring rain, stomping as gleefully as they do in all the best puddles. My aunt doesn’t have grandkids (yet) but she’s a natural born grandma and we’re lucky to have her.

The boys and I returned home exhausted and a bit jittery from the combined impact of sugar and strobe lights. My aunt listened patiently to his detailed explanation of the powers and personalities of at least a dozen characters and praised his skills at swordplay.

Superheroes. They just make life better.

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