When I was a kid, I used to be scared of the Batman opening. I know that sounds silly but it's true. It was in reruns and I had no idea it was supposed to be funny. I took it very seriously; that there were villians like the Penguin, Catwoman and the Joker lurking around. Since I grew up in the late 70's/80's when awful things were happening: Jonestown, Dan White killing Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk, the Zodiac killer lurking around, hostages in Iran, and girls getting kidnapped in front of their house, I did not doubt the fact that Burgess Meredith or Cesar Romero might come around for me and make me do terrible things like hanging around with penguins or listening to awful puns. It was Herb Caen who said that kids don't have a sense of irony until they're about ten. I take his word for it.
Yet the opening of Batman scared me when Batman and Robin ran towards the television screen. As soon as the setup of the episode ended, I would run to the bathroom until the opening credits were over. Mom would sigh and say "They're not going to hurt you! They're the good guys!" I knew that. But what scared me was if they jumped out of the TV they might bring the villians with him.
My father was the one that made me realize it wasn't real; one time he was staying over and the show came on. I was about to head towards the bathroom when he said "Come here and watch." "Daddy, they might jump out!" "If they jumped out, wouldn't they done so by now?"
That was true. I always figured if they did my mother would give them Cokes and tell the villians to shove off. But I didn't want to see it; I wanted to be safe.
"See? Look." They ran across the screen like normal. I held my breath. They hit some people, then shook hands. The Batman theme came on. And that was it. Nothing bad happened. I was safe. I relaxed.
I've shared before when I was thirty, I went back to community college. I left six years before because my grandfather died and I couldn't finsh the semester. I sat there not listening to the lectures, so incredibly sad. Yet I decided to go back, and I met with a counselor to be enrolled again in the school's disability program.
During the meeting I asked him about possibly transferring. He looked at my transcripts. "You would have to do algebra."
"I could try it. I tried it before, but I'm willing to try again. If I can't, is there any way we can get it waived?"
"You can if you want an AA degree."
"But I don't want an AA degree. I want to go to four year college."
He looked at me. "You know, some people aren't meant to transfer and go to a four year college."
I had heard this before. In high school another counselor was talking to my mother. "Now there's some vocational programs Jennifer can do after graduation..."
"She's going to community college and then she'll transfer."
He looked at her. "Ah! Well! At Los Medanos they have some classes she might need for handicapped people..."
"She's going to Diablo Valley College. It's close by and has the highest transfer rate in Northern California."
This was my mother: a tiger mother who I knew could face down the villians from Batman without a second glance. It was my turn. I could run to the bathroom and hide, or I could just face my fears. I looked at the gentleman and said "I want to try. Going to a four year college is my dream. Don't discourage me from my dream."
He looked shocked. I was too, a little. But maybe it was my mother, maybe because I heard Bruce Wayne tell Dick Grayson so many times to keep trying, but I wanted to try. I needed to try.
A year and a half later, there was a party for people who were transferring. I was sitting with my new friend Laura; we were going to Mills together. Cake and punch was served afterwards. I couldn't stay long because I had to go back to my job helping people with learning and physical disabilities with computers. My mother was working in my place; she'd been offered my job the day before (I just told my supervisor I wasn't coming back next semester) I drank the punch and saw the counselor I saw before. He was with a colleague and laughing. I stood there for a moment, wondering if I should go up to him and asked if he remembered me. Then I thought, nah. I'd rather eat cake.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries