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An Ordinary Dad's Extraordinary Secret Identity

MY dad was a mild-mannered reporter with a small metropolitan newspaper. His friends knew him as Corky, but to me he was Superman. He stood 6 feet 2 inches tall, was lanky, and had a shy demeanor. His fedora sat slightly tilted on his head; conservative, rounded eyeglasses perched on his nose; and gray and navy blue suits hung in his closet. But what really convinced me was his looking me straight in the eye and saying he was Superman. He swore to it.

I was six years old when my father shared his secret. My brother Joe didn't believe it. Being one year older, he had experienced my father's previous pranks. Joe had waited patiently, but in vain, for the baseball field with two real dugouts to be built in the backyard. Our younger brother, Moe, on the other hand, believed anything.

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Joe's skepticism planted the seeds of doubt in my mind. Joe was older and seemingly wiser. More concrete evidence was necessary. We wanted to see the Superman suit.

We pleaded with our father for weeks. Doubt was swallowing my faith. I couldn't bear Joe's teasing anymore. One Saturday, late in the afternoon, I gathered my brothers, and the three of us became one solid moving mass, stampeding through the house in search of our father.

We stumbled upon him in the kitchen, opening a bottle of soda. An empty glass sat on the red marbleized linoleum counter. "We want to see the suit, Superman's suit with the S," we said.

He set down the bottle and motioned for us to follow. We silently streamed out of the kitchen, through the dining room, and followed my father up the seven stairs to the second floor.

Our house was a modern three-bedroom split level with wall-to-wall lilac carpeting. My parents' bedroom was at the end of the hall and was forbidden territory. No one was to enter without knocking. If the room was unoccupied, we were not even permitted a peek.

I loved the feel of my parents' bedroom. The headboard of their double bed was a bookshelf with sliding doors and gold dots you fit your fingers into for opening and closing. Mom and Dad each had their own dresser made of blond wood and stubby, round legs. My father's was tall with five drawers. The top was cluttered with change, cuff links, combs, and paper.

Dad pushed open the bedroom door, then made his way to the closet. We lined up in front of its sliding doors, nudging each other in excitement. As he touched the closet door we crowded closer. "You cannot come in the closet," he warned. "There is a secret chamber in the back, and only I can know its combination."

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"Oh come on, Dad," Joe said. I prayed that Joe would not ruin this moment. I had been waiting to see this suit for weeks. Superman would not let me down.

My father pushed past the suits hanging in the closet. For a moment we couldn't see him. I could hear the hangers clanging against one another, then silence. Next a strange scratching sound. My heart was beating fast. It would be beautiful, red and blue. I wondered if he would put it on for us to see. I imagined him even taller in his Superman suit. Would his hair be slicked back? Would his glasses disappear?

In my excitement, I hadn't noticed the silence in the closet. I looked at Joe; he rolled his eyes in disgust. What was happening? I began moving into the closet calling, "Daddy? DADDY!"

"I'm coming, Pooz," he sighed. His head popped through the suits. The glasses were crooked on his face, and the red plaid shirt had not been replaced. As his body pulled through, I saw his empty hands and my heart sank. Joe was right again. Joe was always right.

"I guess we'll have to wait until next week. Your mother must have taken them to the cleaners."

We were all caught off guard by this explanation. Them? The cleaners! My mother did take Dad's regular suits to the cleaners. "But Daddy, what if someone needs your help when your suit is at the cleaners?" I asked.

"I keep another one at the office, and there's usually two here. I can't believe your mother took both." Without missing a beat, my Superman said he didn't need his suit in order to disappear, and he flew down the stairs. He turned left at the bottom of the stairs and was gone.

My brothers and I searched the house for half an hour. We finally found him entering the den from the laundry room. This was impossible! With the layout of our house, he could never have gotten into the laundry room by turning left at the stairs. For years my brothers and I have marveled at how he managed this trick.

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