Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas With A Nerd
Batman Teaches Spanish

It's tough Christmas shopping for a nerd. Us nerd types demand gifts that are mostly expensive and rarely practical. I want video games, gadgets, electronic toys, gift cards to Best Buy...I never want a scarf or pairs of socks.

On the other hand, you can't tell with most people if they are really pleased with a gift you give them, but a nerd's appreciation is always obvious. I've given my aunt some neat little presents here and there, and I get a "thanks!" You probably get a "thanks" from most people too, but do you ever wonder whether you really succeeded in pleasing that person with your gift?

Gift-giving is one of the few practices in life that offers very little feedback, and very little room for improvement because of that lack of feedback.

Nerds are different. Once you find out someone is a nerd, your gift-giving will become easier, and the nerds appreciation will be noticeable.

I send my mom my Xmas list when she asks, and once it is sent I can feel her heart nearly giving in.

Oblivion for the Xbox 360 (Game of the Year Edition Please)
Wii Sports Resort
iPod Touch or any other top of the line iPod
A brand new laptop...

etc. The poor woman is in her early 50's and has probably never even SEEN an Xbox 360.

I was stuck with a dilemma however. What should I get my mother? I don't know too many women in their early 50's and I'm hit or miss when it comes to gifts.

People have a hard time believing that my mother used to read comic books, and so would I had I not found her stash of spanish language comic books in our apartment when I was a kid.

It was a box full of Superman comics where he was a dick and Batman comics where he was a well intentioned crusader. It was mostly hokey Golden and Silver age type comics where the hero is a goody two shoes.

My mom, as a young girl, would sneak off into to the comic shop without telling her mother and purchase a few of the books for nickels. She would devour them and get some more, and then she discovered boys, then my father, then me.

And now here I was with her old Batman comics, and I needed to polish up my spanish reading skills in order to keep up with his adventures with the Riddler and the Joker.

Growing up in a ghetto was tough, and my mom was nagging and otherwordly (as most moms are), but in the 90's we found what we had in common as two people; we were both CRAZY about superhero cartoons.

We both watched the Phoenix Saga unfold on the Xmen cartoon show in complete AWE.

"Oh my god, did you just see that??" I'd scream at her.
"Yeah she's dead!" she'd reply in disbelief.

We watched all of the Spider-man cartoons, and we shed some manly tears when we saw the Heart of Ice episode of Batman (It won the show an Emmy you know!)

And so, for her gifts this year, I took a risk.

I was going to get her graphic novels.

"You're giving your mother graphic novels?" A friend asked, "nobody gives their mother's graphic novels."

I bought two graphic novels. One was The Long Halloween, a stylish and modern Batman mystery tale with lots of his villains appearing, and I bought her the Pièce de résistance; Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

That last one was a book that unofficially ended the Golden Age era of Superman, presumably, the Superman that she knew. It details his happy-go-lucky foes from that era turning sinister, some of Superman's friends dying, and it "ends with a wink."

I knew she had a like for comic book characters, but not so sure she'd still like Comic Books, so I got her the Ally McBeal season 1 DVD (the show made her laugh!).

My mother did good for me on my xmas list, and was shocked to see I had given her more than one gift. She opened them--and this next bit might have been my imagination--but I swear that she was underwhelmed by the Ally McBeal dvd, and was overjoyed at the comics.

"Thank youu!" She said, but there again, maybe it was JUST a thank you, and not a real thank you.

"I tried," I thought to myself. I then explained to her that the Superman comic was the finality to the Superman that she read as a youth, I thought she'd love to read whatever happened to him now.

The following morning I walked into her room to ask her something, and I caught her reading Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. She was HALFWAY through it. She put it down next to her, and she bookmarked where she left off with the magnifying glass she was using to take in the detail and make the font bigger.

There were guests to entertained, so she couldn't get back to the book that day, but for the first time since being a kid an object had mystified me....this half-read comic that I gave my mother.

I opened the page up to where the magnifying glass was. What page did she leave on? What panel? How much had she read? Where did she think the story was going?

I kept checking it as if the details inside the book had changed since the last time I glanced at it.

Inside that book was my mother, not as my mother, but as a little girl who was smart enough to be interested in little boy things. She was a reader with flights of fancy that wasn't afraid of being geeky. In that book were me and her and what we liked about the world.

I'm going to send her more graphic novels with explanations as to why she should read them. I'll talk to her more about why Avatar was so weird for a James Cameron film and how it could have been better (a conversation we had when I took her to see it).

I feel like I can start being friends with her, and it's one more nerd that I can give easy gifts to.


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