The Many Faces of Zeke, Part II: The Heroic Age

Zeke’s interest in super-heros began innocently enough– I mean they are everywhere when you start to look around.

On vitamins. Band-aids. Toothbrushes. Cereal boxes.
Right at his eye level.
Calling to him.
Who is that cool-looking masked man?

He’d see some brightly colored unitard-wearing guy on something and we’d tell him who it was. So he knew basically who they were. He knew their names. Was familiar with their various outfits. But I certainly never felt like a particular emphasis was placed on them in our lives.

Then, one day it was pouring rain outside. The boys were stuck inside the apartment with their babysitter while I frantically attempted to accomplish something and avoid their notice.

Somehow the idea of making a Batman mask occurred to me. It was nothing notable. Just one of many diversions that moms come up with all of the time to keep the peace and keep their children busy. I remember scurrying about, hurriedly gathering supplies: black construction paper, glue stick, scissors, and a Cheerios box from the recycling bin for reinforcement. Deep in the closet I found some purple yarn from a discarded crochet project, perfect for tying on the Dark Knight’s disguise.

As I searched for everything and handed it all over to our sitter, I was mentally trying to calculate how much time this diversion could possibly buy me.

The incredible thing is, Zeke wore that cardboard mask everywhere for an entire week. Clearly, something in our lives had shifted.

The Heroic Age had begun.

That week, Zeke answered only to Batman. The only way he could be convinced to bathe and sleep without wearing his mask was to remind him that when Batman was out of his costume, as he frequently was, he was just a regular guy, named Bruce Wayne. So whenever the mask was off, Zeke was Bruce.

There was something about the dual identities that was fascinating to Zeke. As he became captivated by other super-heroes, the first question he would ask was

“Who is he when he is not in his costume?”

As we became familiar with Peter Parker, Carter Hall, Matt Murdock, et al (Thank goodness for Wikipedia!), Zeke’s obsession grew deeper and deeper. New masks had to be made as Zeke discovered new heroes. Before nearly every excursion, capes needed to be safety-pinned to his shoulders, body armor and gloves fashioned from discarded cardboard and socks.

I remember quite clearly the frustration of childhood, the feeling that nothing was in your control, that you were always subject to the whims of those practically-minded grownups.
So when I watch Zeke assume the mantle of power from behind an old Wheat Thins box covered in paper, a dishtowel fluttering behind him as he zooms across the playground, I feel like I am doing a good thing for him.
His various identities make him so happy and so uncommonly proud. If only it was so simple for all of us. If only it could be that simple for him forever.


7 responses

  1. Very cool, guys. I love the illustration, and the exploration of Zeke's alter-egos. Reminds me a little of my own childhood, which was populated by some of the same characters. I never thought of it in those terms, but life as Spider-Man or the Human Torch must have seemed like the perfect solution to a world that was much bigger than me, and full of rules I didn't really understand. Very insightful and entertaining.

    October 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm

  2. Thanks Mike!

    October 9, 2010 at 10:01 am

  3. JB

    Me: Zeke, how do you know so much about superheros?Zeke: Ummmm, I am a boy!

    October 9, 2010 at 10:44 am

  4. JB

    Also, I loved the Aaron and Zeke debate about Halloween. Zeke told Aaron he was to be Batman for Halloween, and Aaron asked if he could be a Marvel superhero. Zeke assured him that batman was a marvel superhero. Aaron: Can I be the Green Lantern instead?Zeke: I think Batman is a marvel superhero. Great post Amanda and love the pics Molly!

    October 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

  5. Zeke's grand Halloween plan is actually for he and his dad to be Spiderman and Batman and for me to be a fairy. Then, he says, they can rescue me.

    October 9, 2010 at 7:13 pm

  6. This is so sweet. What precious innocence our little boys have 🙂 Thanks for a thoughtful sharing of a great story.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    • Thanks so much! Observing my little boys evolve as people has truly been the most fascinating experience of my life, and I am so pleased to be able to preserve some of the little stages in writing and image here. I am even more pleased when other people find it worthwhile! Thanks for reading!

      April 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

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