by guest blogger Renee James, humorist and blogger
Many things sound so much better in theory than they turn out to be in reality. Unfortunately, you usually can’t tell if that’s the case until you’re in the midst of the experience. Then it begins to dawn on you that, in fact, you’re in a bleak situation, or you at least made a dumb decision, and things are not as amazing as you pictured.
This was definitely true about a day many years ago when my boys and I spent several hours standing in line (the likes of which I’ve not seen since) to meet the Green Power Ranger at a local tire and auto business. I can kind of laugh about it now, but we weren’t laughing then.
We drove by the business holding this event every day. Once the boys heard the news about the Power Ranger appearance, their energy and enthusiasm for meeting one of their heroes was unleashed. Every time we passed the parking lot, they’d check it out for some sign of the rapture to come. When a tent appeared, along with a sign depicting the Green Ranger, they practically leaped out of their booster seats with anticipation.
How I drew the lucky straw on this adventure is still unclear. But it was on a Saturday, and we do have an institution called Penn State football; that probably factored into the decision about which parent would share the joy. So there we were, three boys who couldn’t have been much more the 4, 4 (twins), and 5 years old—maybe even younger—along with their mother, who’d planned to be in and out of there in about half an hour. Just the four of us—and another thousand kids with their moms or dads.
It took us the better part of four hours to inch around the building, getting closer and closer to the tent that concealed the GPR. For long gasps of time, the line simply did not move. At all. There came a point when I wondered if we should leave or stick it out. I figured if the boys could stand it, I could, too.
We were well into hour three before we stepped through the flaps of the tent to behold the superhero himself. By now, the boys had practically collapsed with exhaustion. Their dispositions held up remarkably well—better than mine, in fact— but their little legs were simply worn out from standing, mostly immobile, for hours.
Lucky for us, we have a Polaroid photo commemorating (see above) the event. Three boys, clearly thrilled and proud, surround a Green Power Ranger sitting in an armchair looking not unlike a green Santa, with what appears to be one of the auto center’s spare tires under his costume. It was comical. All this time, effort, and promotional energy—not to mention a thousand excited young fans—and this was the payoff? I guess a chubby green ranger was better than no ranger at all.
A few months later, it was a Power Ranger Christmas Miracle at our house, complete with figures, weapons, and genuine leatherette gloves that played the “PR” theme song with the swipe of your hand. The boys insisted on wearing them to church that morning, and I cringed several times as we heard them in concert with Christmas carols.
Fast-forward to 2014. There have been no action figures in our house on Christmas morning for many years. So why do I want to frame that Polaroid and pull it out every year, just to show them, just to remind them…of what? Childhood heroes? Their exuberance? I’m not sure. Maybe to prove that some experiences—even the most highly anticipated—can be unrewarding. To show them that if you expect too much, you will invariably be disappointed? How festive!
But wait just a minute. The picture shows none of that. It looks like three boys who are a combination of excited, slightly in awe, and perhaps a little exhausted. Maybe I have this all wrong. Maybe I pull that picture out to remind me that, although they’re young men, they were once so, so little, with all the joy and excitement children naturally bring to…well…everything. Older now, but the Christmas Miracle these days is that they’re still full of anticipation about what’s to come. They are my treasures, who—among many, many other things—have taught me that (even a lumpy, semi-disappointing, not-quite-as-you-pictured-it, somewhat adjusted) reality, when viewed through a prism of joy, can be every bit as amazing as you imagine it.
Renee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and also wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, Pennsylvania, newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology, 101 Damnations: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. She invites you to Like her Facebook page, where she celebrates—and broods about—life on a regular basis, mostly as a voice in the crowd that shouts, “Really? You’re kidding me, right?” (or wants to, anyway), and she welcomes your suggestions, comments, and feedback to the mix.