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Superhero Day
Superhero Day

It was the last Friday of summer camp, and it was Superhero Day. Laura has a trunkful of play clothes, but beneath the tiara, the tutu, the fireman's coat, the silver-starred black velvet magician's hat, and the extensive emergency room gear (kid-sized scrubs, garage-sale stethoscope and blood pressure cuff), the choice was obvious: the Supergirl costume we'd bought the October before. Despite Laura's recent growth spurt, the costume still fit. It had been a cold summer, even for Oregon, so the long sleeves did not seem excessive. Laura is ten, and she has Down syndrome. In general, I dislike the idea that people with Down syndrome are here to teach us things. I think that they should not need to justify their existence with reference to us, because they are part of us, they are us. Still, I have learned many things from Laura, and one is that it is possible to march up to the day camp check-in table in blue velour and a cape without any apparent self-consciousness at all. I don't have plans to don a cape anytime soon, but it enlarges my world to know that the possibility exists. I stood back, watching Laura as she checked in. ("Aself," she'd said, shorthand for "I'll do it myself," meaning that I am not to walk her to camp check-in tables or school entrances.) The camp counselor exclaimed that Laura's costume was awesome, and Laura agreed that it was. Then she sat down on a bench and waited to be taken to her group. About half the kids on the bench had dressed up, so along with Supergirl, Spiderman, and a couple of improvised costumes that may or may not have represented licensed fictional characters, there were kids in shorts and T-shirts and sneakers. It was as if they all had superpowers, but only some had chosen to reveal them. What are Laura's superpowers? She's tough, which we saw as she healed from her heart surgery. She's stubborn, which we see both when she is trying hard to read, and insisting that reading is too hard. She is hopeful. She has power over time and space: once, frustrated by the long wait for her birthday, she simply turned the calendar page from January to February. She makes other people happy just by walking down the street. For me, though, Laura's greatest power has been to make the invisible visible. I never really noticed people with Down syndrome before Laura was born. Since she came along, I've come to know many of them, and to see that their place in society depends not only on what they do, but on how they are received. I don't know what things will be like when Laura's an adult, but I'm willing, like her, to be both stubborn and hopeful: with enough work on her part and ours, I think she'll find a place. Whatever her superpowers, I think she'll find an ordinary way to belong.




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George Estreich, United States, OR
9/26/2011 11:38:13 AM
I'm George, I'm an at-home dad and writer in Oregon, and I wrote "Superhero Day." I've also published a book about Laura called The Shape of the Eye: Down Syndrome, Family, and the Stories We Inherit. If you'd like to read an excerpt, please visit

Brandy Foster, United States, OR
9/26/2011 12:28:08 PM
I have never expressed it so clearly, but I believe my daughter, like Laura is a superhero. In much of our superhero mythology heroes are created when they develop a superpower in order to make up for a disability of some sort, and the power to make some

Lisa Morguess, United States, CA
9/26/2011 1:37:45 PM
Beautifully said!

Amy Julia Becker, United States, NJ
9/26/2011 8:20:21 PM
I love the clarity and simplicity of this story. And I love the way you both extol the superhero in Laura and the ordinary person. Thanks.

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