I wish to go back to the purity of falling in love with a story and its characters.

Back to the time when I sat in a tree fort, flipping the pages of the dog eared worn comic book, while my friends sat in similar poses on various branches.   How we laughed and exclaimed over the vibrant images on the pages; ink staining our fingertips.  A new story to act out!!   The entire backyard a setting only limited by our imaginations.   The tree fort could be a heli-carrier.    The ditch by the train tracks a mud soaked battlefield trench.  Pick a story and make it come to life.   Then we would jump down from our lofty perch and as my feet touched the ground:   I am Scarlet Witch!

And three of my friends - boys - would fall prone onto the ground, writhing in imagined pain from the hexes I fired at them.   THIS is a good game, I think.  We are going to play this a lot.   Imagine the effect on a young girls mind and self image?

It didn’t matter that I didn’t look like Wanda.  I had no fancy red costume.  My hands did not actually manipulate mass or energy.   At 8 years old, I didn’t have massive breasts like her comic depiction.   I cared not.   Three boys lay prone at my feet - at my mercy; and in that moment I was unaware of “female representation/objectification.” 

Maybe it wasn’t perfect.   But I was there. 
I still got to play.

Now, I sit in a packed movie theatre and watch the heroes I played as a young girl, with grass stained knees and an old towel my only costume, come to life on a giant screen in all their glory.   And there it is - before your very eyes and you’re transported back to another time and place:

From panel… to screen.   Your childhood just came to life.

Is it perfect now?  No.  Is anything?  Time and newer experiences have shaped and sculpted your thoughts.  Maybe you see certain things a little differently with your new eyes.  Question other things with your expanded knowledge of the world.   Life is not so simple, or safe, as spending afternoons in tree limbs.   But you glance over at the wide eyed, open mouthed intent faces of your children… it’s the first for them.   They have no comparison to inked panels or Patriot Acts - only this larger than life spectacle unfolding in sound and fury before them.  And they are transfixed.   The smiles split their faces.   They cheer the hero and boo the bad guy: some things are just elementary.   You watch as their tender young hearts shift when they see maybe the bad guy, isn’t such a bad guy after all.  See them wince when the one you should trust, reveals another side.   They get it.  A first lesson learned.

And then you go home, fresh from the experience, dissecting it all in your grown up brain.  What was good; what could have better?   Meanwhile, your two daughters and son are running around the house playing “Winter Soldier.”

Your daughters are chasing their older brother - one minute they might be Black Widow and Sharon Carter…. but then they transform to Falcon and Hawkeye; swiping their brothers toy bow and arrow set as they run on by.   There is no discussion about gender roles or what’s “canon.”  The play happens fast on the fly and your only job is to keep up.   My son’s stern voice carries over their shrill laughter and screams  “  I recognize the council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid-ass decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.”  

Me - um, language!!   (yeah, that happened.)

My son is white and this does not occur to him as he raises himself a few inches taller and becomes Nick Fury.   My daughter with arms spread wide to swoop around the backyard, jumping off the picnic table and climbing onto the toy house only wants to fly like Falcon.  There are no rules of representation in the backyard.   And I remember the truth of long ago:  We All Get To Play. 

And just like that, even in all it’s imperfections and a hundred ways I think I can make it better.  Bend it to my own new experiences and learning; make it more my own, the truth hits:  It’s not MY Own.   It’s for all of us.

Did I really see any part of me in Scarlet Witch or Black Widow all those years ago?  Probably not.  I just played the part I saw on the pages.  And now I watch it come to life on screen, and I can’t help but be grateful that even though it’s not just For me, or accurately me; it’s still so very much a part of me.   Woven into the fabric of the women I have become.  Not exactly a true mirror, but I still see myself through the cracks.  And it’s enough.   I loved it then, and I love it still.

As I grab my daughter’s Captain America shield and dash into the backyard, yelling “who’s Bucky” to my delighted children; I never have been more aware of the importance of first loves.  Even though they may shift and bend over the years, truths revealed when the age of awareness strikes:  if you hold tight to them - remember them in the purity of those first experiences; they stick with you. 

And if you’re really, really lucky, you get to pass that legacy forward, and share them with the ones you love most.   Together you jump into the narrative, choose your adventure, and let imagination take you away.  Time and will slip away, and in the moment all that matters is that you still get to play.

Thanks Marvel: I could do this all day.