It’s a bird, it’s a story, it’s Superman

I just returned from a lovely coffee with a friend I haven’t seen since we lived in Singapore. In the time I’ve seen her she has had two children. Two lovely little boys aged five and half and two and half.

I had forgotten how cute little kids are. As mother of a 14 and an 11-year old I’m in a different stage of parenthood. Of course I find my children just as adorable. But in a more elongated, bolshy, complicated way.

Little ones, especially little ones that you have limited time with, are just munchable. The five year old was an adorable little chatterer and the two year old so cute I wanted to wrap my mouth around his little legs and chomp.

We decided to go to the Hollywood Costume Exhibit at the Australian Museum of Moving Images in Federation Square. As we walked in, my friend said, “As you probably remember we’ll be doing the abbreviated tour.

And yes, I did remember: the zooming by all the people looking with great interest and time at each and every costume. We rushed past the the ravishing green dress that Keira Knightly wore in Atonement, Austin Power’s blue velvet suit, the white dress that Marilyn Monroe wore ( just) in The Seventh Itch.

We ended up underneath the costume of Superman which was suspended from the ceiling in full flying mode. In the place of the head was a photograph of Christopher Reeves.

The five-year-old was enchanted.

“Look!” he said with glee. “Superman!” He gazed up at the costume as if the Second Coming was approaching with a big Slurpee in its hand.

With studied eyes we examined every facet of the costume. We oohed over Superman’s rather dashing bright red leather boots which neither of us had ever noticed before.

“What’s his name?” the little boy asked looking up at the face.

“Christopher Reeves.”

“He is beautiful,” he said.

“Yes, he is, ” I agreed. I made sure to use the present tense. Not the time to discuss accidents, paralysis, death, cancer, orphans….

“He’s a good flyer,” he said.

“Well, he’s an actor playing superman,” I said. “He’s helped by wires.”

“An actor?”

“Yes, actors play the characters. That’s what this exhibit is about. The costumes the actors wear when they play the characters.”

“Christopher Reeves is an actor?” he said.

“Yes. He plays Superman.”

The little boy glanced up at the model above us. Then looked back at me, puzzled. And in that look I realized I was walking a dangerous path.

“But he’s a good flyer,” he insisted. “That’s why he got picked to be Superman. He’s a very good flyer. You have to be to play Superman.”

I opened my mouth then closed it. I suddenly realized we were talking about something much more complicated than death. Here, looking me in the eye, was suspension of disbelief. In fact so suspended it didn’t even exist. At least not yet. This little boy was the truest of story followers. I had forgotten his existence. His gorgeous existence. A touch of him remains in all of us. But here he was, unblemished by time and mundane reality. He shone like the largest most brilliant jewel.

So I looked up at the cape suspended by hooks and smiled. “Yes, he is a very good flyer.”

And I left it at that.

I think Christopher Reeves would have approved.

photo by Max-California

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “It’s a bird, it’s a story, it’s Superman

  1. Aww lovely. If I were Doctor Who I would time travel back to those days when my children were this age, just to ask them questions and hear how they answer. Missing you, Nina!

  2. Emily Mackaway

    I must say it my favourite part of my job is the look of a 4 year old as they get sucked into a story (and in my case to do something they find hard). As usual beautifully written 🙂

  3. I think Mr. Reeves would definitely have approved, Nina.

    I don’t know when I started using wires instead of faith to keep my disbelief suspended . . . Some days, I wish I could get that certainty back.

  4. Lisa

    There you go Nina…you just made me choke up and sob. That was beautiful.

  5. ninakillham

    Thanks, Lisa. You are a sweetheart. x

  6. ninakillham

    Yes, Sarah, I too wish I could delve into books the way I used to. It was a beautiful thing. Didn’t realize it until it was gone…

  7. ninakillham

    Thanks, Emily. It’s a very lucky 4 year old that has you as a teacher. You are so good with kids. x

  8. ninakillham

    Hi, Candy. Missing you too.I wish I had interviewed my kids on tape at this age. What a treasure that would be. x

  9. Sabrina

    I will save this for Benjamin so that he can read it when he is older. Thank you

  10. ninakillham

    Hi Sabrina. It was wonderful to see you. Benjamin is a gem. x

  11. carol anderson

    I am the lucky teacher of a class of such precious boys and girls. Wish I had this one! Parents forget each stage and we seem to be in a rush to move on to the next one. Slow down and smell the roses, or enjoy Superman!

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