Wednesday, June 24, 2009

HH and Superman

A few weeks ago, we went to visit his HH’s Grandmother in South Carolina. The two of us set off on our adventure with his backpack loaded with his special friends, the ones we don’t go anywhere without, while I carried the rest of our gear. No matter that he’s less than a quarter my size and weight, his stuff still occupies 75% of the space in our luggage. I thought when he emerged from toddlerhood that the age-to-baggage ratio might level out a bit but it hasn’t.

I struggled to balance the three bags I was carrying while keeping one hand free to hold his as we made our way through check-in, security and finally to our gate. We arrived early, which was a good thing because somehow our seats had not been assigned together and I was not getting on that plane unless the two of us were sitting side by side. We trudged through Newark airport, my hand sanitizer at the ready, supplemented with regular warnings not to put his fingers in his mouth or nose.

There was a good deal of time to kill so we sat on the floor in front of the window overlooking the tarmac and played an airport version of “Mack and Hop-Sing” our daily ritual starring HH as the all powerful Mack, mayor of our town, police officer, pilot, farmer, train conductor and Viking and me, as Hop-Sing, his black, Mexican brother. He’s never commented on the fact that his character is white and mine in black and I’ve never brought it up. It just happened that way because when we started playing the game, we had one white and one black, plastic Lego man. I’m secretly very happy it turned out that way and I’ve not made a point of noting the difference, that time may come but it hasn’t yet.

Playing on the floor of the Newark airport terminal filled me with parental dread. Our travel kit from Germany included Tamiflu, surgical masks, a stock of hand-sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes. I admit to being a victim of the Swine Flu scare but I figured it was better to be prepared than sorry. During pauses in our game, HH would wander over to the window and marvel at the heavy equipment, his face pressed against the glass, followed by my constant reminders not to lick it. I was relieved, somewhat, when we finally got on the plane and underway. The flight was good; he slept most of the way waking just in time to relish in the turbulence as we began our decent onto Columbia Metro Airport. HH loves turbulence, while I, on the other hand, was doing my best not to hold his hand too firmly as our plane waddled toward the runway.

We picked up our rental car, made it home, had a quiet meal and went to bed. The next day we visited with family and he turned in later than normal, complaining that my brothers and sister made too much noise at dinner and couldn’t I ask them to keep it down a bit. The next morning he awoke crying with a fever and a headache. I monitored him for 24 hours and when the fever didn’t let up and the headaches continued and the cough developed, I took him to the Doc-in-a-box down the street to be checked. He was diagnosed with Type A influenza. I was told the State Department of Health had requested samples for further testing and that I would be getting a call in 48 hours with the results. I was not to travel outside the country and had to keep him and myself in isolation until we received the test results. My family had to leave the house, my sister had to bring food to us, and HH was not allowed to leave the house. My worst nightmare was coming true and we were far from home, away from our family doctor, away from his mother, and not happy. The only saving grace was the wide-screen TV set in the den. I set HH up on the couch, with a TV tray and a blanket and for the next three days, he watched TV and coughed. I slept in his bed with him, more to comfort me than him although it was at his request that I joined him. There was no way I was going to sleep in another room, not with him in there coughing and sweating. I didn’t sleep much that week but HH had a ball. We don’t have a TV. I expect one day I’ll be forced to buy one but I hate the things and haven’t watched TV regularly for a decade or more. I turned it on in the late morning of September 11, 2001 and pretty much kept it on for a year until it finally got to me, again.

On those rare occasions when he does watch TV, like when he visits his Oma or his Aunt Doris, HH doesn’t usually watch the news. Once while perched in his Oma’s lap he caught a news segment about an airline crash and came downstairs to ask me what happened to all those people in the burning airplane. I reminded his Oma once again why we didn’t have a TV and to please keep the TV on kid’s programming if it had to be on at all. However, during our quarantine in South Carolina that damned TV was a life-saver and when it was finally time to fly home, HH had very mixed feelings. He wanted to go home – he just didn’t want to give up the TV. I had finally reached his Doctor and who told me that as long as HH was taking the Tamiful and his temperature didn’t exceed 101, he could fly, with a mask. So we finally made our way home. HH wasn’t fully recovered and would need to spend another week mending. Knowing he was going to be home, in bed, with little or nothing to do, and with a full-blown TV habit, we resorted to video.

When he first looked at the two-DVD boxed set of Superman (the animated version) he was curious but not elated. He as a Spiderman guy and although he had heard of Superman, he wasn’t a fan. Well, after three days of watching that DVD he was hooked. Mack and Hop-Sing have now been transformed into Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen. Lois Lane is there, Lex Luthor, Perry White and the entire cast of villains and support personnel from the city of Metropolis. He rediscovered the Superman t-shirt I had picked up for him last fall and rarely takes it off. Superman fascinates him. Two nights ago, on the Summer Solstice, he refused to go to bed until it was completely dark outside. So we sat up in the living room and he talked to me until he began to nod off. He waxed eloquent about the planet Krypton, about Superman’s costume and how he (HH) was going to invent his own version of the Superman outfit so that we could do our grocery and toy shopping without the muss and fuss of driving.

HH is fully recovered no, his Swine Flu results were negative, and although he still has a bit of a cough, he is pretty much back to his old self again. The two of us went fishing for the very first time yesterday. We caught two small fish and released them and life is beginning to resemble something like normalcy. The big difference between now and before our trip to Grandmother’s house is Superman. I don’t know how this will turn out – I never do – but I hope the call of summer, the warm days and the lure of the lake, will take his mind off the DVD player and the new superhero who has taken up residence in the imagination of my son.

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Anonymous NYCtoNewHampshire said...

"...Hop-Sing, his black, Mexican brother."

Latinos don't differentiate racially believing culture and shared values are what matters.

"He’s never commented on the fact that his character is white and mine in black, and I’ve never brought it up. I’ve not made a point of noting the difference, that time may come but it hasn’t yet."

I think HH has noticed the difference - it just doesn't matter to him and won't unless he's taught differently.

1:47 AM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

And I hope it never does ...

I learn a great deal from him, just by watching and listening.

Thanks for your comment.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

I am so glad to hear that your little person recovered and all is well. I had something similar happen with my daughter once and it was very scary.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite an adventure. I'm glad that it turned out well.

3:42 PM  

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