Spider-Man and a friend

Your friendly neighborhood author (and a friend).
Photo by Heather Conner.

On Halloween night, I attended our church’s annual “Trunk or Treat” night, where my family (okay, mostly my wife) put together a trunk for the kids who came. I went as Spider-Man, and it turned out to be a very special experience.

I expected the kids that attended would think it’s cool to see a guy dressed in a fairly authentic-looking Spider-Man suit (I was leaning more toward “cosplay” than the standard “Halloween costume”), but I had no idea how big a deal it would become.

Hardly a minute or two went by (and sometimes a handful of seconds) when another boy or girl down the line would spot me and shout, “It’s Spider-Man!” Many times they bypassed the candy we were giving out altogether and came straight to Spidey. Most of them wanted high fives or fist bumps. There were probably 10-15 whose parents asked if I’d pose for pictures, and I tried my best to contort into a cool Spider-Man pose.

As incredible as those moments were, they weren’t my favorites. That distinction belongs to the five or six little ones — probably 2 to 3 years old, each — who without a word and without hesitation, ran up and gave me a big hug. “I love you, Spider-Man,” a few of them said. “Spider-Man loves you too, buddy,” I replied as I hugged them back.

To say that it tugged on my heartstrings does not do the event justice.

I don’t make a particularly impressive Spider-Man. I may be thinner than I used to be, but big muscles and the ability to grow them are not something God has ever gifted me with. I’m still a little squishier around the middle than I’d like to be. Then there’s the suit, which was cheap and poor quality. It didn’t fit so well, and I couldn’t see through the lenses. At all. (But the fact that we were in a parking lot with no bright lights actually helped sell the illusion.) By the end of the night, the suit was showing a lot of wear and tear.

But none of that mattered. For one night, I was Spider-Man, a real superhero that made a whole bunch of kids very, very happy.

And now I think I know what I want to be every year for Halloween.

Living with chronic pain and invisible illnesses is no fun. The pain ebbs and flows but never goes away, you’re always tired and want more sleep, and your mind decides to forget things that it knew just a few hours ago. That’s the tip of the iceberg. But for a few hours this week, I got to step outside of that person and be someone else. It was exhilarating! No thinking about my pains or fatigue or money or stress or whatever else; I existed purely as a real-life superhero to several hundred children.

I think it was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.

Now if only there was a way to cosplay as Spider-Man for a living…