I’ve honestly always wanted a cape, ever since I saw the original Superman with Christopher Reeve. We both had black hair, and wore glasses, and were a bit nerdy. Clark Kent obviously had a unique gift and calling on his life, and in my innocence I wondered if maybe I did too. I remember using a safety pin to hold together the short end corners of the biggest bath towel I could find to wear around my neck. And then I would run through the house with my cape fluttering behind me, and jump off couches and beds and chairs and anything else I could find. In my mind, being a superhero involved a lot of jumping, perhaps as practice to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
My cape made me feel strong, powerful, courageous, and noble. It made me feel like I was more than meets the eye, that I had a secret and special quality about me that no one else had. And that it would help me to be the best version of myself, to battle evil and save lives and just naturally do great and awesome things to make the lives of others better and safer and happier. I think everyone wants this, and not just while growing up. We want to have something extraordinary about us to share, something that we can unveil to the world to fulfill a grand purpose.
I haven’t worn a towel like a cape since before adolescence. But I have always delighted in what it signifies. And since I’ve known Rachel, I’ve joked offhandedly about how I would love a cape because it represents what I am all about. Childlike faith. Truth and justice for all. Awe and wonder. Intrepid valor. Romance. Living from one’s heart above all else, for the greater good.
She surprised me with it for our second wedding anniversary when she came to visit me in Ireland this summer. I got out of the shower, and there it was laying on the bed for me. I was completely dumbfounded and speechless when I first saw it, and didn’t know what it was, but then it hit me.
I was like, “You got me a cape? You got me a cape?!! You got me a CAPE!!!!” And she was like, “I made you a cape!” Even remembering the moment as I write this out makes me marvel anew at her act of love towards me.
You have to see it in person. I’ll even let you try it on if you want. I didn’t want a cape with the Superman logo, something you could buy in a costume shop. I wanted my very own, something that no one else had. And no one else has this cape in the entire world! I love that it’s red, with a gold stallion as the insignia (its meaning is personal). I love that the inside of it is black. I love that it has weight and class to it, as the material is just exquisite and really makes me think that all of the best capes out there – Superman’s, Batman’s, Dracula’s – were made just like this one. And when I wear it, I don’t feel derpy or ridiculous. Instead, I feel joy – simply and purely.
While we were vacationing around Ireland, my favorite thing to do was to find the ruins of a castle, put on my cape, and go climbing around on it. You might think that it took me back to being a kid again, but in my mind it was a wonderful reminder that I haven’t stopped being a kid – at least in the most desirable ways. I want to remain curious, and wide-eyed, and risk-taking – and expect that things will work out in the end. I want to feel mysterious, and dashing, and capable of tremendous feats. This is how I always want to see myself, how always I want to be.
As I think about it, my cape is important to me for two major reasons.
First, it represents a rite of passage. In adolescence, we have bar and bat mitzvahs in the Jewish tradition, confirmation in the Catholic faith, Quinceanera in Spanish cultures, Seijin Shiki in Japanese customs. Many times, some symbol or token is given to formally mark the transition from child to adult, and their calling forth into greater responsibility, maturity, and strength. I’ve heard of examples where the token was a replica broad sword from Lord of the Rings, or a necklace of great significance and meaning.
It may seem like an unnecessary formality, but it is a very special thing to commemorate a major life change in a tangible way that conveys encouragement, support, and nobility. It also then serves as a clear, unquestionable marker and signpost to remind a person from where he has come, and where he is going. I find that individuals need to know when a transition has happened, or else they flounder and flail while seemingly suspended between two stages. And they never really make the “jump” – leaving the past in the past and fully embracing the present and future.
I’m about to be a father for the first time. This is a humongous deal. My cape serves as a token of remembrance that spurs me on to be a hero to my forthcoming child, and to my wife. It also reminds me to view the world as my playground, where anything can happen and everything is possible (I still believe that). It encourages me to stiff-arm complacency, press through fear, and fight the good fight just like Superman or Batman or any other caped crusader would. It helps me to rise up, and be the best I can be.
Second, in 2 Kings there is a great story of when the older prophet Elijah passes on his mantle (or robe, or cloak) to his younger sidekick Elisha. A mantle is very similar to a cape, and represented a covering from God that conferred authority and responsibility to one chosen to do great things. When I see my cape – and honestly even when I think about it – it serves a tremendous purpose. I am reminded that He has set me apart, to be a light in dark places, to know the words that sustain the weary, to offer hope, to reflect how to live life to the fullest, and most importantly to point others to His son Jesus through all that I do.
There’s so much in this world that destroys our innocence, and that breaks our will and even our heart. There’s so much that pushes us in the direction of bitterness, cynicism, passivity, and resignation. We find ourselves in a downright war for emotional health and stability as adults just trying to make it, and the battles we must fight every day render us weary.
I think we’d all face these struggles with more fortitude and hope if we could approach them with the mindset we had before our childhood was rocked. Or stolen. And often, we need something to get us there, to jolt us out of our self-defeating thoughts and attitudes.
My cape does that. It serves as the reminder I need to regain the perspective I always want to have in life. It helps me to remember my identity, my calling, and all that I am meant for – and meant to be.