The house where Superboy was born

by Wolf Pascoe on February 9, 2012

We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot — “Little Gidding”

superboy adventure comic

We lived in a house until my father died, then a series of apartments. I hated them. When I could afford it, after I became a doctor, I got a house. Not as nice a house as the one I used to live in, but a house anyway, though I’ve never been happy with it.

The yard is cramped. I don’t like the way the stairs spill down out the front door. Don’t get me started on the bathrooms.

I realize I’m lucky to have a house, and that it makes me sound like spoiled child to complain. Nora has made it charming, even beautiful. But I keep picking at it anyway, like a scab. It’s never going to be right.

No house is ever going to be right.

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MESSAGE

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When Superboy’s childhood house landed intact outside Smallville, he couldn’t go inside. Everything, walls, his crib, toys in the nursery, had turned to Kryptonite. The population of Smallville lined up to see where Superboy had been born, but Superboy himself had to keep away, using his telescopic vision to see.

His father, the scientist Jor-El, had left him a message.

To My Son,

If by some chance, this part of Krypton survives . . . I wish you to do three things so that the memory of our great world will survive in men’s hearts. Build a suitable memorial to Krypton. Find and save another planet which, like Krypton, is about to be destroyed. Read all the great classics of Krypton so that our culture will be stored in your heart.

Your loving father,

Jor-El

SALE

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houseI drive by my old house. I wait for it to go on sale so that I can walk inside it again and visit my old room, second story on the left.

Whoever lives there now must be pretty happy with it. In all the years I’ve been looking, no “For Sale” has ever appeared on the lawn.

I tell myself I should take a walk down the sidewalk in front of the house, where I learned to ride a two-wheeler. I don’t do it.

When I dream about the house, it’s like this:

I am invited in by the current owners. They show me the work they’ve done, which is still in progress. The house is barely recognizable, much larger, with expansive rooms and exposed beams. One thing I feel bad about is the back yard, which has shrunk to accommodate the additions. The grass is gone; only a concrete patio remains.

Sometimes, I buy back the house, and move in with my sister. Sometimes my mother still lives in the house. Never my father.

THREE THINGS

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Krypton ParkI got the Adventure Comic pictured above around the time we moved away from my old house. Somehow, it survived the catastrophe where my mother had me throw out my comic collection. Along with some Supermans that were spared, it endured, forgotten, at the bottom of a cardboard box in the garage of an aunt.

I have three things that belonged to my father. His wallet. His watch. A poem he wrote on yellowed paper.

Have I read the classics of Krypton?

I think so. I have dug and dug into the history of my family.

Have I built a suitable memorial?

Well, I have my words.

And what about finding and saving another planet, which, like Krypton, is about to be destroyed?

A huge, foolish thought, that.

Still, it makes me think of my son Nick, adopted, and how he came to us, plucked from another life, the day he was born.

A child is not quite another planet. But not quite this one either.

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RELATED POST:

Love, Angry Birds, and Superman

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YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

Michael Chabon’s Goodreads page. Author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, this wonderful writer has made a career out of his obsession with comics and alternative universes. Summerland, which Nick loved when he was seven, makes for good bedtime reading for kids.

 

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EXPRESS YOURSELF!

Thoughts about your past? Dreams of houses? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

jeff skorman February 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I love our new home.It is a very important part of our life and it is important to be happy where you live.

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Wolf Pascoe February 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Amen.

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Kristen @ Motherese February 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Gorgeous, Wolf, as always. The last lines slay me.

I wonder, would you ever consider knocking on the door of the house where you grew up to meet the owners and maybe even look inside? I wonder what dreams you’d have afterward.
Kristen @ Motherese recently posted..Watchful Waiting

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Wolf Pascoe February 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Kristen,

I don’t know if I have the nerve. (Might be easier if I were a woman.) But it happened to me in the house I live in now—a woman came by who used to live here when she was a girl and asked if she could come in. It was very moving to see the house through her eyes.

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BigLittleWolf February 9, 2012 at 5:46 pm

So often you make me weep. Too often.

I have dreams of homelessness. Recurring dreams with slight variations. I once had terrible fears to do with my children; that I would be taken from them, unable to give them a home, before they were raised and so they would be homeless as well as myself.

Now I have terrible fears that I will not be able to provide a home for them to come back to. I will be homeless, and they will have no place to light.

Once, I returned to the stone house built by my great-grandfather for my grandparents, in the 1930s. They had lived there for 60 years. I stood at the front gate and was flooded with memories of childhood. But I did not dare to knock, and I did not risk that someone would answer.
BigLittleWolf recently posted..How To Succeed… Or Keep On Trying (Aspiration, Inspiration, Motivation)

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Wolf Pascoe February 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm

We should all be writing about these houses.

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Chopperpapa February 10, 2012 at 8:52 am

A dad’s poem, in his own handwriting, would be a treasure.
Chopperpapa recently posted..She doesn’t want sex anymore and why it’s your fault

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Wolf Pascoe February 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Was and is.

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Barbara February 10, 2012 at 11:45 am

I immediately thought of Nick when you mentioned saving a planet. That’s exactly what you’re doing, being his father.
Part of me wants to urge you to knock on the door of that house, introduce yourself to the owners, explain you used to live there as a child and just wanted to look around. I bet they wouldn’t mind at all. We did this for our younger daughter after we moved, knocked on the door of our old house so she could see it again.

But she was disappointed, and that’s why the other part of me thinks you’re better off not stepping inside, but hanging on to those images in your mind and heart. I know I’m blessed to still be able to sleep in my childhood home when I visit my parents, but in reality, it’s gone through so many changes that I have to travel back in my memory to see it with my child’s eyes as it used to be. Perhaps you’d be able to do the same, but perhaps not.
Barbara recently posted.."Girl…We SO Crazy" (a Diva weekend in Long Hollow)

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Wolf Pascoe February 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Thomas Wolfe was not a great writer, but You Can’t Go Home Again was surely a great title.

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Privilege of Parenting February 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Lovely and haunting. After my wife’s childhood home had to be sold after her parents had both died we left it and have not gone back, even though it is close to us in many ways, a holder of memory and spirit—it’s as yet too painful to see it changed. The other evening my wife looked at her iPad and noticed that my younger son had been looking at that house on the satellite view… it made us realize that he too must miss it, but I also sense it was as if he was seeing it now almost as if from another planet.

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Wolf Pascoe February 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

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Chris Buckley February 11, 2012 at 7:40 am

Terrific post Wolf.

Mort Weisinger, editor of the Superman titles from the 1950s – 1960s, was known for introducing fun story elements from his own psychotherapy into the titles. This “you can’t go home again” motif is a perfect example. Interesting not just that Superboy gets access to his childhood home, but that it’s become something that can kill him so that he can never re-enter.

When I was seven, we moved from the house where I was born to a bigger one around the corner. So though I’ve only ever been inside it once since we left, I have seen it every day and watched it change.

Similarly my grandfather’s house is across town and even though my uncle moved into it after Grandpa died, I haven’t been back inside since.

To be honest, I don’t want to go back to either. I think I’m better off with the memories undisturbed.

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Wolf Pascoe February 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Thanks, Chris, very glad you stopped by. I’m trying to wrap my mind around the idea of living around the corner from the old house.

I remember Mort Weisinger. I wrote a letter once that he published.

Readers who want an in depth view of stories and their meaning should check out Chris’s incisive blog, Story Wise Guy.

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ck lunchbox February 12, 2012 at 9:08 am

That was incredible (as always). I’m told many times how lucky I am that my family still lives in the home I grew up in. As I get older I’ve realized not to take it for granted.

Funny. I was thinking of Kavilier and Clay while I was reading this.

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Wolf Pascoe February 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm

One seldom gets anywhere writing about comics that Chabon hasn’t got to first.

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dork dad February 12, 2012 at 10:30 am

My folks sold and moved away from the house I grew up in after 30 years. I still drive by it on occasion, but oddly have no desire to go inside. I do, however consistently have nightmares about the strangers currently living in my grandparents’ house. “I know you bought the house, but who do you think you are living in this house. This is OUR house!” I still drive by it like a stalker.

Last year I drove by with my 95 year old grandmother. We parked, got out of the car and stood on the curb remembering together. Just then the owner walked by and so graciously invited us in to walk around and share our memories with his family.

It was a priceless moment that never would have happened because I was too chicken to knock on the door.

-dork dad

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Wolf Pascoe February 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm

DD,

Thanks for dropping my.

The same thing happened at my current house when a former owner came by, as I mentioned above.

At the end of a previous post, Missing your mark, I wrote this:

Every dwelling in America ought to come with a memory book. Everyone who lives in a place, from the first on down, leaves an entry.

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