Reincarnation Of A Senescent Superhero

When I was a child, I played with the things of a child.

Then I became a man. I put away the things of a child.

So here I am at age 72, debating whether tonight will see me in pajamas festooned like Spider Man or Superman.

Among the childlike things that I relegated to memory was the pastime of jumping from one of the twin beds in a bedroom to another, clad in knit pajamas, with bath towels secured around our necks with oversized diaper-size safety pins, shouting, “Up, Up and Awaaaaay!” a la Superman.

Now, I have superhero pajamas, and wear them gleefully. This is the fault of my late, sainted mother.

When my own children were young, every Christmas Mom would buy pajamas for the boys. The girls usually got frilly nightgowns. The boys got … footies. Pajamas with feet attached.

Footies were fine at ages 4, 5 and 6. At ages 14, 15 and 16, they seemed to have lost their appeal.

But there was no escape. Mom would arrive in time for Christmas Eve supper and stay through Midnight Mass, then co-preside over the after Mass scramble to open her presents and wear them that night.

It was tradition that Grandma wanted to see the bright smiles on her grandchildren’s faces as they opened the packages containing the footie-endowed pajamas.

There were two problems:

Size. Grandma, a child of the Great Depression, believed in getting one’s wear out of the clothes. The pajamas were invariably a size or two too large, “so you can grow into them.” This led to tripping over floppy footies and too-low nightgown hems, but Mom just brushed aside complaints with a “Pish! Tush!” and a rollicking laugh.

Football. Mom understood that there was such a game as football, though she thought it to be a barbarous pastime. Never mind that her husband, my father, got his teeth knocked out while playing the more genteel games of basketball and baseball. Football was barbarous.

But if her grandsons were NFL football fans, she would oblige. She bought NFL-themed pajamas.

To Mom, one NFL team was pretty much the same as another team, just another bunch of bone-crushing barbarians. So it did not matter to her whether son Matt, a diehard Steelers fan, got pajamas adorned with the star of the hated Dallas Cowboys, or whether Mike, a Tampa Bay fan, got an outfit emblazoned with the logo of the then-hapless Rams.

Hurried whispers followed the opening of the package.

“Ya wanna trade? Please? Puh-LEEZE? I’ll throw in a package of Archway cookies if you’ll trade!”

Mom didn’t mind the trades. Heck, she didn’t remember which kid had received which set of pajamas.

The kids suffered the humiliation in sotto voice near-silence, enforced by my insistence that Grandma’s feelings not be hurt.

The tradition apparently died with Mom, back in the 1990s.

Note: “Apparently.”

Contemplating what to buy four fortysomething sons for this past Christmas, and 12 grandsons and a son-in-law, ages 49 through 2, I had a “Eureka!” moment.

I would resurrect pajamas.

Sadly, footies could not be found in the great variety of needed sizes, ranging from Cody’s 3T to his bodybuilder father Matt Spencer’s “humungous.”

But superhero pajamas were plentiful.

I chose four themes: Superman, Batman, Spider Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Chuckling gleefully, I invited my wife to watch as I clicked on this or that online logo, envisioning the males of our one-day post-Christmas family members all wearing their superhero pajamas, accompanied by appropriate facial expressions.

Embarrassment? That might be possible for a daughter-in-law, a grandson or two, but I and sons and grandsons are so accustomed to being silly that we are usually beyond embarrassment.

Unhappily, the freezing rain weather on the chosen assembly day, the Saturday after New Year’s Day, cut our crowd from the expected 28 to just (!) 18. So I passed out PJs to assorted groans and chortles, then waited another week to deliver the PJs and other gifts to the 10 who had been ice-bound in Warren.

And I opened my own Christmas presents from my beloved, angelic wife.

There sat two boxes: Superman and Spider Man.

Her smile was beatific, innocence personified.

A few grandchildren were dubious.

“You aren’t gonna actually wear those, Grandpa – are you?” said one.

Not only will I wear them, but I think they will make perfect on-the-porch loungewear during a planned midwinter trip to milder Florida weather.

No. 4 son Greg taught me the Spider Man sound: “Fthwhipp!” as the wrist-webs shoot forth.

But nobody had to teach me the Superman slogan. That, I have known since my first childhood.

“Up, Up and Awaaaaay!”

Now, where IS that jump-on-it bed?

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: