In honor of Wonder Woman opening in just five days, I offer you my own hymn to superheroes drawn from an Owens Valley childhood informed by the liberal wearing of Underoos as both underwear and possibility. Playing in my Underoos led to trying on and practicing the attributes of future identities. I looked for source material in my teachers and my parents. Which person should I become, which character would suit me best? I watched television shows and Space Shuttle lift-offs for inspiration, I read novels by Judy Blume for guidance. At school I observed Mrs. Keene, an elementary school teacher that could have been Lynda Carter’s twin sister, for clues.
When I heard about the upcoming premier of the female-directed film with a relatively unknown actress as lead, memories began to surface of who I was when I first fell in love with Wonder Woman: uncertain, scared, yet full of determination that a girl could do what a boy could do. Decades later I know women still have a long ways to go, gender equity is still a challenge. But I’m encouraged that this film is predicted to be a hit with both men and women. It just goes to show that long after we stop wearing Underoos, we all, men and women, continue to need our superheroes.
Wonder Woman Is Back
Wonder Woman is back.
She won’t take no for an answer.
I let Mrs. Keene know that I knew she was really Wonder Woman, but she refuses to acknowledge it.
I see right through her disguise – she is not a second-grade teacher, but
a crime-fighting woman unafraid of her cleavage and leotard.
She is knocking on the door of my house and I’m watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood while chasing my little sister around the mobile home, and the dog is barking, trying to get in on the action, and we are also playing hide and seek as well as pretending to go camping before we conduct a repeat of last Sunday’s Easter Egg hunt.
“I don’t have time for this, I’ve already told you I know who you are,” I eke out my speech between inhalations of air.
Mrs. Keene is crying, holding a basket. She is wearing a long dress with an apron. I say to her,
“You look like Laura Ingalls Wilder.”
“I am,” she said.
I could see her dark hair, even though it was tied in a braid with a ribbon from the general store, was the same as my Mrs. Keene.
“You’re still you,” I said, but it came out more like a question.
“Yes, I am still me,” she smiled. I looked down and kicked at a pebble on the threshold.
When I returned my gaze –
She was Pippi Longstocking!
Her black braids turned red, taut and horizontal, impossible not to giggle, and so I did,
And she did too.
“But how, how are you so many different persons?” I shook my head but hopped on one foot, for running and skipping with Pippi was going to be the best way I could spend an afternoon, and I couldn’t wait to get started.
“You want to play with me?” Pippi said. I clapped my hands, nodded, and then I invited her inside. I ran to the fridge to pour her a cup of Hi-C.
“Do you know the greatest traveler there ever was, she went to space?” I yelled from the kitchen.
When I came back to the living room, there she was, astronaut Sally Ride, my little sister and my dog sitting beside her, Pippi gone and Mr. Rogers talking to the red trolley and nothing was wrong in the whole world, all my heroes there in one place, waiting for me.
Try writing a poem like this here.