"Bouncing Off the Walls" Hero Meets Hero at Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

By Jessica Yahner
July 5, 2013

For my son's fifth birthday, I surprised him with tickets to see and meet his hero in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.



When I found out that I was expecting my son, there was little doubt in my mind that he would be a "theatre kid." His father is a vocalist and music director, I'm a dance teacher, and while awaiting his arrival, I directed my first local musical theatre production. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Adam would have a flair for the dramatic.

I had no idea just how dramatic that flair would be, however, until Adam made his grand and completely unexpected entrance into the world 13 weeks ahead of schedule. He was painfully tiny, he was critically ill and he was the strongest person I had ever seen. He fought through six endless months in the hospital, through twelve trips to the operating room, through three years with a tracheotomy and through two years of mechanical ventilation. Every moment, every breath, every milestone was a victory won with a grace and determination far beyond his age. Adam has triumphed over every challenge he has faced and has greeted each morning with a smile. He is my hero in every possible way. He loves his life and he loves his family. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that he also loves Spider-Man.

As the extraordinary occasion of my little hero's fifth birthday was approaching, I could think of no better way to celebrate than to let him see his hero live and in person. Through some wonderfully generous special arranging, a plot was hatched to give Adam the ultimate Spider-Man birthday surprise: We had "landing zone" seats to see Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, followed by a trip backstage to meet the man himself. As we approached the big day, it became harder and harder for everyone in our family not to spill the exciting news, but I managed to get Adam on the bus to start our adventure with no idea what was in store.

Adam stands center stage after the show
Adam's face beamed with excitement when he heard the bus driver announce how long it would be until we arrived in New York. He was even more excited when we stopped by Midtown Comics and picked out some books to start his new collection. It wasn't until we actually got to the Foxwoods Theatre and started to look at the show photos on display outside that he started to put it all together. He ran from sign to sign, gleefully slinging webs at everyone who passed by, saying, "I get to see the really REAL Spider-Man!" He gave me more hugs than I could count and high-fived everyone we interacted with while entering the theatre. During the show, Adam's emotions ranged from cheering with excitement to screaming out loud and diving from his chair into mine. He laughed, cried, and was completely riveted to the action, trying to keep constant tabs on where Spider-Man was flying. It was amazing to watch the show through his eyes, full of wonder and admiration for the "good guy" who he insisted he had no doubt would win in the end.

When the show ended Adam turned to me and proclaimed that this had been "the best surprise in the whole universe!" As we walked outside to the stage door, I told him that there might be one more surprise left, and indeed, it was an amazing one. I can not say enough wonderful things about the time we spent backstage at the theatre. Our guide though the process was amazing. She interacted beautifully with Adam and made him feel extremely important. Adam had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to shout, "You're fired!" at me with J. Jonah Jameson, to show off his light-up Spider-Man shoes to Mary Jane Watson, and yes, to sling a few webs with his own personal hero. He got his own copy of the Daily Bugle and stood centerstage, staring out at the empty house, smiling from ear to ear. After saying reluctant goodbyes at the theatre, we met Adam's aunt for dinner, took him on his first subway ride and made it back to the bus to start our journey home in a state of blissful exhaustion.

On the ride home Adam told me that he had felt "every feeling he had to feel" during the course of the day. Thinking back on the days when I held his tiny body and wondered if he would survive, I was overwhelmed by the realization of just how truly alive he really is. There's no appropriate way to say thank you to someone who hands your precious child their wildest dream on a silver, or in this case, webbed platter. I hope that everyone who was a part of our amazing day could see in Adam's eyes how much it meant to him, and to me, to be there. I use the word grateful a lot in my life, and on this day I was most profoundly grateful that my good guy, and his good guy, both won.