Cartoons taught me that we all have superpowers. Some, like Superman, were born with it; some, like Gargamel, had magic potions; and some, like Scooby and crew, were diligent and smart.
At age five-and-a-half I set out to find my super power. I took stock of my family line and talents and figured my best bet was to find something toxic and radioactive.
I played with spiders and jumped from trees. I rode my bike down huge four-foot hills, hoping to warp into my superpower world. And then, Christmas morning 1981, my dream came true. I got a hot-air balloon suncatcher.
Mom told me about crystals and baking and hanging the suncatcher. I tore the package open. I saw the crystals and the metal frame. Eight colors in separate packets poured forth and I knew the secret to my superpower lay in finding the best way to eat the right combination of crystals.
I had told Jean and Jake that I didn’t care what my superpower was, as long as I discovered it soon, but really, I wanted to fly.
There were two kinds of blue crystals in the suncatcher. The light blue ones looked the most promising, the most like the sky.
I grabbed the packet and ran to the bathroom.
We went home for my grandma’s funeral just before Christmas. Kris and I went through my parents’ ornaments; 37 years of once-fine Hallmarks and never-fine home and school-made beaded projects. Strewn throughout were our suncatchers: metal frames in wreath, candy cane, and butterfly shapes. Jake, Jean, and I raced to put the crystals in the frames. Mom baked them and told us how great they looked. Mine always had mistakes: colors that bled over and made my balloon asymmetrical and unnatural. I showed Kris the ones I made. The balloon had two giant sections missing. The sections that remained were spotted with wrong colors and bleed-overs. There were no light-blue sections.
I bit into the packet as soon as I got in the bathroom. I didn’t know how many crystals to eat. I poured them into my hand. I put one tiny crystal in my mouth to taste it: all plastic-y and hard to bite into. I put a couple more in my mouth and went outside to jump. I was a good jumper so it was hard to tell if I was flying for short periods of time or just jumping extra high. I sprinkled some crystals in my hair and jumped some more.
And then I realized that the crystals probably had to be baked to unleash their magic powers. I went back inside shaking my head at my stupidity. I brushed my teeth for the first time since October to get the possibly dangerous crystals out. I got two of the three crystals out.
I raced to finish my suncatcher. I dumped crystals in, not paying attention to colors, except for the two center sections. I filled those with light blue. I gave it to my mom to bake.
“You did such a nice job,” she said. She always thought I did a nice job.
She baked it. It looked terrible. I cooled, I grabbed it, and ran back to my room. I peeled off the two blue sections and put them in my mouth.
Kris bought me a suncatcher for Christmas. Two frogs in love. I raced to put the crystals in, certain that I could now do a good job.
The melted crystals tasted terrible and I spit them out as soon as I put them in my mouth. I was too weak to discover my superpower. I brushed my teeth for the second time in the same day; and bragged about it to my parents.
I was thirty-two when I got my first cavity. It was in a wisdom tooth so the dentist suggested I have it pulled. He numbed me, grabbed the tooth with a pair of pliers and started yanking. Twenty-two minutes later, I heard a pop and the tooth came out. He held it up to show me.
“Look at that,” he said, “you’ve got four roots per molar instead of the usual three. That’s like some kind of superpower.”
I smiled, satisfied.
I still made a mistake on my suncatcher.