What was the greatest gift you ever received? For me, it’s hard to pin down one specific thing. When I had hair, someone gave me a long, black comb. It was the kind preferred by barbers, the ones which usually rested in a jar of antiseptic. I took this gift for granted. I was unable to fully appreciate the ability to style, move, and adjust the hair on top of my head. Now that I am bald, I see it as one of the greatest treasures ever to be placed in my hands. At one point in my journey I received a free subscription to the jam of the month club. Someone thought to arrange for copious amounts of strawberry jam, grape jelly, raspberry preserves and flavors I didn’t know to be delivered to my house on a monthly basis. I don’t care how you slice it, that’s love. In the midst of enjoying this love, I developed what the great actor Wilfred Brimley calls, “diabetes”. Sometimes gifts aren’t all they appear to be.
Maybe the greatest gift I received wasn’t any of those things. Maybe it was the batmobile. I remember the Christmas when mama and daddy got me a decent size replica of the Adam West-era Batmobile. I’m telling you this car was identical to the one Batman drove on the hit 1960’s television show, only considerably smaller. Batteries from Radio Shack and the Batcave were not included. With those small exceptions, it had everything else. There were seats for Batman and Robin, a phone to call Commissioner Gordon, and a big jet engine to blast out of my yet to be built Batcave.
I loved that car. I loved the idea of having that car. I loved that the Batmobile was now mine. I owned part of Batman. Batman belonged to me. On good days, we had gone into partnership together. On other days, I was in charge of the whole operation. We would be, at my discretion, fighting crime in the place where I lived. Before I received the Batmobile, we could only fight crime at certain times of day, usually in the late afternoon at my grandmother’s house when the show came on television. Between homework and snack, I would fight crime with Batman for about half an hour. Now, with the Batmobile, we weren’t bound by the limits of a television show. Batman lived with me in my homemade Wayne Manor. We were friends.
Every facet of Batman’s life, work, and car were mine to look at, recreate, and enjoy. If I wanted to make the car drive up the side of a tree, we drove vertically over bark, limbs, and moss. If the car, which had never flown in a single episode, wanted to fly; we would launch ourselves through the air. What I had watched the car do on television didn’t matter. The untapped crime fighting potential sitting in my hand, that’s what mattered most. I didn’t need to see under the plastic hood or kick the tiny tires to know the car would fly. I could simply tell. These unrealized and unseen powers were the most obvious and self-evident qualities of the Batmobile I received as a gift.
This is why, when I am offered the gift of a horse; I feel no need to look in the horse’s mouth. I can simply tell whether not I want it. Thanks to the Batmobile, I don’t need to look inside the horse’s mouth to know whether or not I need or want the horse, even if it is free. I don’t need to look in the mouth of anything human or animal. I don’t care who they are, that’s just gross.