I was straddling puberty in the summer of 1993. I went with my best friend Luke Hemphill and his family to Wing Point Country Club. His dad was a member there. The pool was brimming with activity when we arrived. Kids could barely wait to jump into the pool and moms could barely wait to lie in the sun and forget about their children.
A lifeguard sat on high, watching, keeping the order. Every now and again they’d blow their whistle and wag their finger at someone who was not obeying the rules.
When it came time to leave we went to the men’s locker room to wash the chlorine off our skin. The men’s locker room was filled with all sorts of oddities we, as young boys, found fascinating. Combs soaked in blue barbicide, talcum powder, and aftershave that could wilt your nose hairs with one whiff.
“Dad’s waiting for us in the van,” Luke announced.
I turned off the shower head, wrapped a towel around my waist and sauntered into the locker room. Luke and his brothers, Wes and Tim, were gathered around the bench, bashfully changing under their towels. I jumped up on the bench, pulled off my towel, and wrapped it around my neck like a cape.
“Batman without no clothes!” I shouted, then jumped off the bench.
Luke and his brothers laughed until they were red in the face. They’d never seen such audacity. They were good Christian boys, all of them home schooled, sheltered from the world.
I still shake my head when I think this. I have many regrets. This is one of them. I regret that I used such terrible grammar. Why I didn’t say ‘Batman without clothes’ or ‘Batman with no clothes’ I’ll never know.
Now we’re older. We’re men. We have families of our own. Luke has three impressionable children. Two boys and a girl. His boys, Levi and Ben, are complete opposites. Ben is 4 years old. He’s reserved and quiet, and very attached to his blanket, doesn’t go anywhere without it. Levi is 6. He’s loud and expressive, and has no problem speaking his mind. What they have in common is they both love hearing the stories of our youth. A few I’m surprised Luke has told them, given that they have a PG-13 rating.
One of their favorite stories was when I tumbled into the water at Cannon Beach, Oregon. I was a bit accident prone when I was young. One moment we were walking, talking about girls, the next I was in water. I came out, sopping wet, and cried “That was my last clean pair of underwear!”
Levi loved this story so much he wrote a series of short stories based on it. Each ended with me ruining my last clean pair underwear.
Their other favorite story is Batman without no clothes. Ben especially.
It’s flattering to know I’ve brought laughter to two generations Hemphill’s. One day Luke sent me a video of Levi and Ben saying, “Batman without no clothes!” It was cute and harmless until Halloween night 2015. I was with my wife. We were trick-or-treating on Carol Street with our daughters when I received this text message from Luke:
“While I was giving some candy to some tween girls at the front door they looked behind me and started giggling. Ben, who had just got out of the bath, was standing at the top of the stairs with his towel on. And then he opened it wide and said, ‘Batman without no clothes!’”
We, as adults, thought the story was harmless. Never did we think it would lead a young boy to become the world’s youngest exhibitionist. Only now do we realize the story of Batman without no clothes should have stayed in the men’s locker room.
Kids. They’re like the NSA. Always listening, always watching—especially when you’re unaware. Do they remember the pearls of wisdom you so graciously cast to them? No. What they remember are things you wish they’d forget.