I swear this blog will be about Dante again soon, but there’s a thread still hanging from the previous posts: the cat’s name! So let me wrap that up with a little summary written by Laura:
Introducing our sweet kitten, and his new name — Nimbus Snowdrop Wilson. We chose the name “Nimbus” because:
- nimbus means: the type of cloud that yields precipitation, either snow or rain (and our kitten has white fur on his chest and face that looks like snow softly falling)
- nimbus also means: a scientific term for a halo, a circle of white in the sky which is an optical phenomenon produced by ice crystals; also, nimbus means an artistic representation of a halo, or a ring of light, surrounding a person in artwork (and we adopted our kitten from the shelter, Angels with Paws, so the halo imagery is pertinent)
- more generally, nimbus also means: the cloud, aura, or atmosphere surrounding a person or thing (and our kitten brings a lovely, sweet presence to our home)
- also, a cumulonimbus cloud is a tall cloud mass with darkness on its sides and lower portion, along with high cottony white parts (and our kitten has dark tabby stripes and swirls, in addition to his fluffy white front and paws)
- besides, a cumulonimbus cloud can bring thunder (and our kitten has a sonorous, rumbly purr)
- and yes, the nimbus 2000 is a flying broom in the Harry Potter series
And we chose “Snowdrop” for his middle name because:
- the snowdrop is a beautiful, small, white flower, with petals that generally hang down (all four of our kitten´s paws are soft white, and he often sits with his two front paws placed neatly together – so they look quite like the petals of a beautiful little snowdrop flower)
- snowdrops are one of the first flowers to bloom in spring; they may look rather delicate, but in fact they are rather hardy plants, often poking up and blooming despite the snow remaining on the ground (and our kitten was born in March to a mama cat who needed to be helped by the shelter)
Any questions? :)
t.k. here. Today my humans introduced me to a new room, which is a bigger expansion of the Room. I thought it would be a new big room, but instead it just makes the Room even bigger! Did I tell you how big it was?
Well, anyway, here are some pictures. Here’s me:
Here’s an extreme close-up of my face:
Here’s my smallest owner petting me:
Finally, last but most, here’s the video:
Once again, more blog posts coming soon. Bye!
[This blog post brought to you by Dante channeling t.k.]
Hello. It’s t.k., our new cat here. I would like to tell you about something. What happened is I was in Angels With Paws, a cat shelter, for a long while. And then, I got taken home by people. Apparently “home” is a room… the BIGGEST room I have ever seen in my WHOLE LIFE! In fact, they just added a new part and made it EVEN bigger. That’s for another post.
But anyway. I think it’s fun, but the humans think it’s naughty, to scratch on the new king bed, although I just got a thing called a scratching post that’s nice to scratch on too, and I’m slowly transitioning. I also like to walk across my humans’ heads every two hours in the night and wake them up. But the best part is the toys.
“Toys” are little things that are so fun to play with! Here’s a list of some toys:
- There’s this little thing that my humans hold and then it shines a red dot on the ground, which is so fun to chase! I can run pretty fast. Videos coming soon, and so are pictures.
- And there’s also this rainbow-colored toy, which is also very fun to chase around.
- There is also this green string with a butterfly on the end of it, which is pretty cool.
But my favorite one of all is something called a “Cat Dancer.” It’s basically some sticks on a string, which my humans have lots of fun games with, like the “circle run,” where my human moves my cat dancer all around and around in circles and I chase it until I get dizzy! Or I catch it. And there’s the “high jump,” in which my owners hold my cat dancer up high and then I make an amazing leap and for some reason my smallest owner imitates it. And last but not least, there’s another function of the cat dancer: the “cat-apult”, in which my human curls it up and drags it and I chase it until suddenly it springs around all over the place and I get confused, but then I chase it some more.
Alright, that’s the end of this post. More posts are coming soon! Bye!
[This post brought to you by Dante, channeling t.k.]
Before Dante was born, the ruler of our house was a cat named Random. We got Random from a shelter in 1996, after a bitter February cold snap. They said they picked him up on an extremely cold night, living on the street. He was a Manx tabby, meaning he had just a couple of tail vertebrae, resulting in a little stub that would still wave around expressively at times. Laura and I are both definitely cat people, especially her — when we were first dating I mentioned that I thought I might be a little bit allergic to cats, and she turned on me and said, deadly serious, “Don’t make me choose.” My allergy is quite mild — as long as I keep fur out of my face for the most part, I’m good — so we adopted Random shortly after we got married, and loved him.
Dante’s arrival was quite an adjustment for Random, as you might imagine. Suddenly here was this creature — loud, unpredictable, and full of peculiar scents — commanding so much of the attention that used to go to him. We still made an effort to spend time with Random, and when baby Dante was sleeping, Random would often come and have a lovefest with us, but still, things had changed forever. Add to that the fact that Dante was utterly fascinated with Random, a doomed love that was unrequited from the start. Random was reasonably patient with Dante, but babies and cats just generally do not mix, or at least they didn’t in our house, and all the waving, noise-making, and enticement in the world on Dante’s side did not change this immutable fact.
Meanwhile, one day Laura noticed what looked like a skin reaction after Dante had touched some peanut butter, so we took him in to get some blood tests for peanut allergies. In the process, we tested for a variety of other common allergens, and came up positive on a total of three: peanuts, eggs, and cats. The peanut one we could handle well enough, and the egg one he got over in a couple of years time. The cat one, however, was tough. Suddenly it seemed as though something was going to make Laura choose, especially after the allergist advised us to get rid of our cat. Even at the time, this struck me as a very allergy-centric response. There was no way we were going to get rid of our cat if we could possibly make it work, especially since we had all been living together already with very little sign of problems. So we kept things clean, and kept hair away from Dante, and everything was fine. I’m sure it helped that Random himself avoided Dante assiduously most of the time.
We lost Random in October 2009. He had cancer in his jawbone, and by the time he was diagnosed there was no treatment that would have left him with reasonable quality of life. Dante was 4 years old at the time, old enough to understand what death meant on a basic level, but too young to really process it. What was true about him then, as now, is that he takes losses very hard, and always seeks some solution to them. Anytime a toy breaks or can’t be found, he becomes deeply distraught and begins immediately announcing plans about how it can be repaired or replaced. Random couldn’t be repaired, and we weren’t ready to bring a new cat into our lives right away. I remember Dante taking in this information and still looking for solutions. “I could pretend to be him!” he offered.
Since then, we’ve been pretty circumspect about getting a new cat. Just because Dante didn’t react very much to Random doesn’t mean he wouldn’t react to a new cat, and in fact we have seen him react from time to time when we’d bring him to the houses of cat-owning friends. The reactions aren’t huge, and certainly are far from life-threatening, but he’d eventually get sniffly, sneezy, and puffy. The last thing we’d want to do is introduce a problem into Dante’s environment, or place ourselves in a situation where we really would have to get rid of our cat to avoid endangering our kid.
And yet. Laura is a born cat owner, and desperately missed having a feline friend around the house. Dante, in the meantime, had become obsessed with cats. True to his 4-year-old word, he was constantly pretending to be a cat or a kitten, and had begun pressing harder and harder for us to adopt a cat. “Even if it makes me allergic, it would be so worth it,” was his recurring line of argument.
Researcher Laura got on the case, checking out how to be a cat owner even if you have a cat allergy. She learned the allergy mechanism and the specific allergen, which is a protein called Fel d 1 present in their saliva. She found lists of breeds who produced less of this protein, and various traits associated with lower allergen levels. She learned about what kinds of products, habits, etc. can lessen risks of a reaction. She also explained the situation to his pediatrician, who said, “Look. I’m allergic to cats and dogs, and we have two cats and three dogs. I just pop a Claritin if I’m having an issue, and everything’s fine. If you want to get a cat, go ahead and get a cat. Watch for major reactions, and keep your Epi-Pen handy in case of emergency, but otherwise you can just manage it with Claritin.”
Thus reassured, we then all had a conversation about it. We agreed that we were willing to give it a try, and decided that we wanted to definitely adpot from a shelter rather than a breeder. We hoped we could get a kitten, so Laura put herself on some email alert lists for kittens in some of the less-allergenic breeds, including Manx, Siberian, and Russian Blue.
That was a couple of months ago. She hadn’t heard much of anything, and we were starting to think we’d just need to look for traits instead of breeds, but on Thursday the 28th, she suddenly got a message that a nearby shelter had two five-month-old Siberian/Tabby kittens available. She called me at work, and we decided to head out there. (Comically, this was the same day we were having a new bed delivered — when it rains it pours.) I was coming from work, so they beat me there by about a half hour. When I got there, I saw this little kitten sitting in Dante’s lap, purring up a storm. The cat never stopped purring the whole time it was with us, passed from Dante to Laura to me as we talked with the shelter about the various details.
Reader, we married him. Or rather, we adopted him. It was instant love from the time that purr started. We brought him home, and he’s now living in our bedroom — they advise keeping new adoptees in a small area at first before introducing them to the rest of the house. No names yet — the shelter had named him “Socks”, but we’ll likely choose a different name. Creativity is flowing in this area, and lots of candidates are bubbling around. Just as we called Dante “t.b” before he was born, standing for “the baby,” we’re currently calling the kitten “t.k.”
The point is, we have a cat in our lives again. And it is wonderful.
Last week, we took a family vacation. We’d done day trips before, and the occasional overnight, but this is the first time we traveled far from home and stayed there for an extended period. We drove to Ouray, Colorado (pronounced YOO-ray, much to our surprise), and stayed 3 nights there in a vacation rental condo. Laura and I have both lived here for decades, and always heard about how beautiful Ouray is, but never quite made it there — it’s about a 6-hour drive from Denver.
Well, the place lived up to its reputation for beauty. It’s nestled in a small valley with dramatic mountains all around, and all day long there’s the most incredible play of light on those mountains. Different parts get spotlit as the clouds shift and change, so that one moment you’re seeing a stand of trees outlined in dazzling clarity, then a little while later it might be a cliff face, or an outcropping, or one of the rivers that flow into and through town.
In fact, one of those rivers flowed directly past our condo, which worked out great for Dante. See, when Dante was littler, Laura would take him on day trips to the mountains, and the way she enticed him to be excited about the outdoors was with the promise that he would get to throw things into water. They would always find a river, a lake, a stream, or what have you, and then scout up a bunch of rocks and sticks, which Dante would delightedly toss into the water, reveling in the splashing and floating.
So now, the boy is simply obsessed with throwing rocks and sticks into water whenever we’re out of the city. Anytime we drive past a lake, or a river, or anything, he’ll say, “I want to throw rocks into that!” We generally have to ration out the splash activities so that we’re not stopping every 5 feet. This time, though, he could throw rocks from our balcony, and they’d land in a river! He made trip after trip to gather rocks from the surrounding area, haul them up to the condo balcony, and hurl them into the water. He would also often share his spoils, generously offering Laura and I some prime stones to throw.
He’s similar with playgrounds — anytime we drive by one, he’ll say, “We should go to that playground sometime!” In fact, as we drove through Gunnison on the way to Ouray, he saw an awesome one with a really tall slide, and immediately was lobbying us to bring him to it. My approach was to say, “Yes, that may happen sometime!” As in, sometime in his lifetime. Open to the possibility, but not promising anything. Well, thanks to clever Laura, we timed our trip home so that we ate our lunch in Gunnison, right next to that playground.
Side story from that playground trip: part of the equipment there was some tunnels that all led into a kind of “bubble” structure, with a clear dome on top. Dante went in there and Laura, standing outside, heard this exchange between Dante and a kid inside the bubble, who was probably something like 6 years old:
KID: [to Dante] You can’t come in here!
DANTE: [taken aback] Why not?
KID: Because this is for boys only!
DANTE: Well, first, I can come in here, because I am a boy, but if you’re going to exclude people on the basis of gender, I don’t want anything to do with this anyway.
And then he turned and left. That’s my boy. Nevermind that this kid was unlikely to follow the anti-discrimination argument, especially the way it was phrased — Dante just said his piece and moved on. Made us smile and shake our heads at the same time.
Also, he is constantly mistaken for a girl, but this does not bother him in the least, and I suspect he kinda likes it. We were playing Apples To Apples Junior that weekend — a game in which you try to find the best fit for an adjective from a handful of random noun cards — and the adjective to match was “perfect.” Laura played “egg” (playing off the “nature’s perfect food” advertising they’ve sometimes had), I played “brains” (which was roundly shouted down by the other similarly imperfect-brained people in the room — hey, it was the best of a bad hand), and Dante played “long hair.” The judge awarded him the point.
Anyway, back to Ouray. Dante’s room had 3 beds in it — a full-size bed and bunk beds. He was so excited by the range of possibilities for sleeping arrangements. He rolled a die to decide which one he’d sleep in first — top bunk was the winner! So he slept there the first night, bottom bunk the next, and full bed the last. He was very excited to show us all the features of the various beds, and their various pros and cons.
He brought a bunch of Star Wars action figures on our vacation, which really reminded me of myself on family vacations when I was his age. I’d always bring a bunch of those guys along so they could see the sights and have adventures in exciting new landscapes. In fact, it may have brought back memories for them too, because Dante’s Star Wars action figures are my old ones, preserved from my own childhood and handed down to him, Darth Vader carrying case and all.
We took day trips during the days, visiting the breathtaking Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park, and the equally astounding Box Cañon Falls Park in Ouray itself. Having visited and loved Mammoth Cave a couple of years ago, these unbelievably majestic rock formations really did it for me. Dante’s reaction was a bit more muted, which was not a big surprise — swooning over gorgeous landscapes seems like more of a grownup thing. Also, the Falls are loud, and we’d forgotten his headphones for that outing. Oh well, it was awesome anyway.
Our condo was also within walking distance of the Ouray Hot Springs, so we visited there a few times, soaking in the mineral pools. In the same facility there was a pool given over to turtles and fish, ranging from tiny to quite large. You could buy little pellets to feed them, so we bought some and let Dante give the marine life a feast. He watched them and we watched him.
As we returned home, we stopped at the top of Monarch Pass, which has a great kitschy gift shop and a ski-lift tram to the top of Monarch Ridge. We rode the tram to the top and looked around at all the peaks we could see. Dante was fine with the view and all, but really dug the tram. He also got into the spirit of having his picture taken.
All in all, a really fun vacation. And now we know we can do it. I wonder what we’ll do next year?
A couple of weeks ago, Dante decided that he wanted to read some entries in his blog. This has happened before, and it’s fun. This time, though, he decided he wanted to read ALL the entries in his blog. He started at the end, and rewound post-by-post all the way back to the beginning. Since then, he’s been using the Random Post button to jump around in time. For instance, tonight he wanted me to read some of it with him, so we read Piglet! and Love And Affection and Don’t Mind If I Do. In the latter, he asked me to explain the Simpsons joke, so I did.
As a result, he’s re-living lots of childhood selves. He’s asked me to play games with him that we played when he was a baby. He asked Grandma to make him some rigatoni. Tonight he asked for extremely cold water with ice kuh-yoobs. It’s like he’s a greatest hits compilation of himself.
It’s a funny thing, having this artifact of his earlier stages (and mine too) for us both to revisit. He has an older perspective on the stories, but not yet an adult perspective. For instance, he apologized to me for his peanut questions in Trick Or Treat, Take Twelve, and when I asked him why, he said it was because he felt like he’d done something wrong. I explained to him that far from doing anything wrong, he was doing just the sort of thing we usually want him to do by watching out for peanuts, and that the story wasn’t about his behavior but rather about the somewhat absurd situation of this one weird night where suddenly the rules about asking for candy from strangers are suspended, but the social expectations remain in place, as do the allergies, and how you can’t really expect a 5-year-old to negotiate all that by himself. Also, I pointed out to him that the progression of the story was based on his success at learning something new from every encounter, and his sincere attempts to do what he was supposed to.
I have no idea where all this is coming from. Maybe it’s because he turned 9 last month, and the birthday put him in a retrospective frame of mind. It’s been quite a nostalgia trip, in any case. He even wanted to visit the park near our old house, where I used to take him for swings, sand, and derring-do. Now he scampers up those bump stairs without hesitation, zips on the zip line, and even climbs up twisty ladders that intimidated him as recently as this spring. It’s a wild juxtaposition, watching my 9-year-old Dante leaping over all his tinier ghosts, even as he recalls and imitates what remains of them as it got preserved here.
Time once again for that cherished summer tradition, the yearlong recap of Dante anecdotes posted to Facebook:
September 5: Laura is dropping Dante off at school today. They see the principal, Mr. Cochran, who is wearing bright Broncos orange.
DANTE: Where do you get all those crazy shirts?
MR. C: At the crazy shirt store!
DANTE: [Remembering, I swear, Mr. C's Halloween costume from 2 years ago, in which he dressed as Muppet Babies' Animal.] And where did you get those big footie pajamas?
MR. C: From the big footie pajamas store!
Dante and Laura wave goodbye, head for the door. On the way, Dante says to Laura, sotto voce, “That is a store that is GUARANTEED to go out of business.”
October 19: Dante: “I don’t get why they say about a baby, ‘bouncing.’ What is with the boing? You should not introduce a boing that early on.”
November 15: Dante spontaneously decided he wanted to write some interactive fiction. We broke out Inform 7 and made a little game from the POV of his teacher’s dog. He then said he wanted to play one of my games, to see what a finished one was like, so we played through Earth & Sky.
So yeah, that was really, really fun.
|[Paul O'Brian]||The teacher played through Dante’s game with her husband. Best comment: “We also appreciated the irony that when we gave the command to ‘sit’ or ‘roll over’ that we were told ‘this is not a command I recognize’. So true. So true.”|
December 19: Doing homework:
ME: What’s the capital of Georgia?
January 13: And now, another episode of “Dante argues with the classic hits”:
TEMPTATIONS: I don’t need no money, fortune or fame.
DANTE: You need *some* money.
|[Adam Cadre]||How long before he’s ready to read The Dispossessed?|
|[Rachel Wright]||So glad he’s taking a pragmatic approach to life!|
|[Paul O'Brian]||Adam: I give it three years. Right now he’s all about Dahl, Eager, and Pokemon handbooks.|
April 6: Dante’s review of Muppets: Most Wanted – “It was pretty good, but there were too many explosions in the first part and too little explosions in the second part. They should spread the explosions out more evenly like they usually do.”
June 3: Dante has been into the Muppets’ Swedish Chef lately, and imitates him all day long, often via repeating something we just said. Thus ensued this conversation:
ME: Man, I feel like everything I say comes back at me in mock-Swedish.
DANTE: What do you mean, “mock-Swedish”?
ME: Well, the Swedish Chef doesn’t *really* speak Swedish.
DANTE: How are you spelling “mock”?
DANTE: Oh, I thought you were talking about Swedish that moves at the speed of sound! In which case, all Swedish would be Mach-Swedish.
July 5: Dante argues with the classic hits.
QUEEN: No time for losers, cos we are the champions!
DANTE: That seems mean to me. I would change it to “Still time for losers, but we are the champions.”
I work for the University of Colorado Boulder, which is about 35-45 minutes (depending on traffic) away from my home. In our earlier parenting years, Dante saw my workplace quite a bit, because Laura would have afternoon appointments in Boulder, so we’d do a kid handoff where she drove him up to me and then I drove him home while she went to her appointments. However, as she’s started working and various factors shifted, that pattern dropped away, so that Dante hadn’t seen my office for a couple of years. Meanwhile, I’d changed jobs within the university, and I’m in a whole different building than the one he used to visit.
For a few months now he’s been agitating to come see my workplace, so this year we decided to actually take advantage of Take Your Kids To Work Day, which was April 24. Now, Laura’s workplace has a whole awesome deal that they do with the kids, including a scavenger hunt, working with the big library book sorting machine, various activities, and so forth. We tried to tempt him with this, but he was set on coming to see me. My workplace has none of that stuff planned, and in fact I only saw one other parent with a kid there all day. But hey, I was up for it.
Of course, the vast bulk of my job consists pretty much of going to meetings and reading/writing emails. So I knew we’d need to figure out some more activities to put in there. We commuted in the morning — he even agreed to get up earlier than his usual so we could get there on time. I showed him around my office, and he immediately gravitated to some goofy toys I have on my shelves — wind-up robot, sparkly top, bowling pins, and so forth. I’d actually more or less forgotten that stuff was there — I had it to amuse him back in the era when he did come to my office more. Plus, office toys are cool.
I work in CU’s IT division, as the service manager for its web portals — the web sites that students and faculty use to perform various self-service tasks like registration, course activation, bill payment, admissions, and so forth. So I showed him those sites, and talked a little bit about the structure of the university itself: 3 campuses served by an overall “system” office. I drew the whole thing out on our whiteboard, and ended up referring to it several more times throughout the day. He also got to spend some time with my friend and office-mate Tashi, who works as a developer for those portals. Tashi is great with kids, and has always been very kind to Dante in particular, so that was a big plus.
At 10:00, he came to my “standup meeting.” This is a status meeting that happens twice a week, in which everybody literally stands up, the idea being that the collective desire to return to a sitting position will keep the meeting short. Essentially, everybody goes around and says what they’ve done with their last couple of days, what they expect to do in the next couple of days, and cites any barriers they might be facing. In this way we keep in touch with the work of everybody in our group, and sometimes can share insight across tasks. Dante reported his own last 48 hours and next 48 hours, which was excellent. He gave particular attention to the fact that he’s learning “When The Saints Go Marching In” on recorder in his intstrumental music class.
Because speed is at a premium in this meeting, and because I know Dante is always full of questions, I gave him a notepad to write down whatever questions may cross his mind as everyone was talking. As predicted, he had a lot:
For the record, his questions and the answers:
Why a piñata?
There’s a piñata near where we stand for our meeting. It wears a hat reading “No Bull”, and commemorates a co-worker’s very unfortunate and injurious encounter with a mechanical bull.
UIS, or University Information Systems, is the IT organization for the system office which serves all CU campuses. This was another opportunity for me to refer to the whiteboard!
What are darrs?
Dante heard me referring to DARS, which is our inexplicably non-mapping acronym for the Degree Audit and Transfer Articulation System. It’s basically the system that students and advisors use to determine how close somebody is to graduating, and what else they need to do.
Who is the person that is next to me?
List the people here clockwise from you
This I did, but won’t repeat here.
Tashi and I actually work in different groups, as the developers have a group of their own. Dante was puzzled by his absence at our meeting. Tashi looked at his list and said, “Yeah, those were basically the questions I had on my first day. ‘Where’s Tashi?’ was the hardest one to answer.”
After a bit more email and spreadsheet action, we headed to lunch with the lovely Trrish. That was lots of fun, and featured Dante asking us more interesting questions like, “If you could have any job at CU besides yours, what would it be?”, and “If you could have lunch with any 5 people who aren’t in your family, who would you choose?”
From there, we went to campus and took a walking tour. Because CU is not only my employer but also my alma mater, not to mention the place I met and married my wife, there were plenty of stories to tell. Also, it’s a college campus, so it has lots of fun stuff to look at. Dante’s primary interest was in finding tall buildings where we could ride the elevators. The Gamow tower which houses the physics building was the best for this, but the Engineering Center was pretty good too.
Not only that, the Engineering Center has a section called the Integrated Teaching & Learning Laboratory whose basic purpose is to teach engineering concepts to K-12 kids. Consequently, it has lots of cool sciencey exhibits, including an absolutely fantastic ball machine called the Pythagorean Fantasy. It features a randomizer and lots of different tracks for the balls to travel, as well as some interactivity, such as path-blockers that you can engage with a teammate to make the balls travel down a track where they play blocks, bells, and chimes.
After that, we walked back to some fountains he wanted to play in, then headed back to the office and home. I thought the day would go slowly, but on the contrary, it flew by! I have no idea whether this trip made him more likely to attend or work at CU, but it did let me show him some of the important pieces of my life that he hasn’t gotten to see. I call that a day well spent.
As Dante gets older, his milestones start to overlap with my own childhood memories, sometimes so close that they nearly touch. So indulge me a story please — I’ll connect it soon. When I was six years old, I got a present. It was called The Mighty Marvel Superheroes Fun Book. It was your basic book of mazes, word games, puzzles, quizzes, etc., featuring Marvel superheroes. I knew nothing about these guys at the time, though I’d probably heard of Spider-Man and the Hulk. Trying to do the activities in the book showed me that there was a huge universe of Marvel characters, each one of which seemed to have its own compelling costume, superpower, personality, origin story, and so on.
I had to know more. I started pestering my mom and dad for Marvel stuff, and lucky for me, the company was in an expansive phase, publishing a variety of paperbacks (via Fireside Books) reprinting origin stories for various characters (most of whom emerged in the early 1960s) alongside more contemporary tales for some of those same characters. That was how I ended up with Origins of Marvel Comics, and its successors Son Of Origins, Bring On The Bad Guys, The Superhero Women, and so forth. There were character-centric collections too, and about 4 sequels to the original Fun Book.
These books became a cornerstone of my childhood. In fact, I was so fascinated with the Marvel universe that I methodically went through the Fun Book (my original talisman) page by page and devoted a week to every superhero it mentioned. I’d try to learn about the hero of the week, but it would also affect how I dressed, how I played, what decisions I’d make. (“What would Doctor Strange order from this restaurant menu?”) It went deep, and it went on for years. I still love Marvel today.
As I watched Dante approach that same age, I’d offer him the same kinds of things. But he seemed to have very little interest in activity books of any sort, and zero interest in comics and superheroes. In fact, even when I found a copy of Origins for a ridiculously low price at my local comic store and brought it home to him, he literally said, “No thank you,” and it was exiled to his bookshelf to collect dust. By the time he was seven, I’d pretty much concluded that I’d never share superhero stories with him.
Then, last summer, I happened across an online video game that had just launched, called Marvel Heroes. It’s a massively-multiplayer action role-playing game, where you get to choose somebody from a roster of superheroes, then romp through the Marvel universe gaining abilities, gear, levels, and so forth by beating up the bad guys. Oh man it is fun, and I’ve been addicted to it for the past 9 months or so, especially as its fantastic developer team continues to improve it on a weekly basis.
Dante likes to watch me play games sometimes, so he perched by my shoulder as The Thing ran around clobbering various evildoers. He was mesmerized, and started asking me all kinds of questions about the various heroes, as well as the plot points in the game’s story. That story is kind of a “Marvel’s greatest hits”, so I mentioned that the MacGuffin behind the first few chapters (called the Tablet of Life And Time) shows up in the comics, including a story that just happened to be on his bookshelf… in Origins Of Marvel Comics.
So he grabbed the book, and this time he devoured it, along with all my other Marvel Fireside books. He also asked if he could have his own account in the game, and I consented. He chose his account name (“Is ‘3-month-old kitten’ a good account name?”), picked The Thing as his hero, and off he went. My sister bought him a Marvel Encyclopedia, and he dove in, similar to how he’d done with Pokemon in the past. He lost interest after a while, but that didn’t matter to me. He’d learned Marvel, and given us a common vocabulary to talk about this thing I follow.
It occurs to me that Marvel Heroes is the 21st-century equivalent of the Fun Book that so ensnared me. Where 1970s kids had mazes and word games, 2010s kids have incredibly interactive and immersive environments to play in, but they both have that dazzling panoply of characters, costumes, superpowers, and stories. Now that I write it all down, in fact, I’m reminded that almost the same exact pattern happened with Star Wars. So now we play both Star Wars and Marvel games together (including the fabulous Lego variants of each), and in fact he’s recently undergone a Marvel Heroes renaissance, diving back into the game to explore all the stuff that got added after he left.
All I know is that I never get tired of hearing him say, “It’s clobberin’ time!”