Symbols and Superheroes


by Christine Louise Hohlbaum

Arachnids and acronyms fill my life these days. Little spiders have retreated to the cool of my home through open windows and terrace doors. Not a day goes by that I don't walk right into their hair-like webs that hang from hallways and doorframes. Through their presence, I am reminded of the brevity of summer and the passage of time.

Acronyms are useful tools. They help explain large concepts in letter form. I came across relatively new acronyms through the Internet recently. WAHM and SAHM are terms that describe who I am - a working, stay-at-home mom. Depending on how I am feeling on any given day, I could be a superhero WAHM (work-at-home mom, but then which mom doesn't work at home at least some of the time?) or a superhero SAHM (stay-at-home-mom, and there are times that I'd love to be anywhere but home!). For the slightly dyslexic person such as myself, these acronyms could be cause for confusion. Who is Sam, anyway? Further, whatever happened to Wham!, that 80's pop group starring George Michael?

Oh, the elusive "H"! My last name is another point of confusion. H-O-H-L-B-A-U-M. For you Germanophiles out there, it means hollow tree. For the rest, it means having to hear me say over and over again, "You spell it ', not H-O-L...H-O-another-H...'"

Singular acronyms have become all the rage. Let's take current US President Bush as an example. To distinguish him from his father during his presidential campaign, journalists started referring to George Junior as "Dubya". Given that his father had H.W. nestled betwixt his George and his Bush, it only seemed appropriate to downsize George Junior's name to a singular letter: "W"!

Musician Prince tried to change his name to a symbol -- not an alphanumeric one, but something else which stood for The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. He even went on CNN's Larry King Live to try to explain its meaning. He ended up changing his name back again once he discovered that the reverse is true: acronyms still rule. Symbols that require lengthy explanations do not.

This brings me back to arachnids and superheroes. Superman has an "S" to represent him. Spiderman does not. Perhaps Spiderman feels cheated that Superman got the "S," and he is left to climb the sides of buildings at all hours of the night. Or perhaps Spiderman doesn't really care. Maybe he would prefer to spin webs of gold in my doorways to remind me that summer is coming to an end, that my children are getting older, and that one day my WAHM-ness may just go the way of George Michael's 80's band.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, has been writing short stories since she was eleven years old. She is an American living near Munich, Germany with her husband and two children. Visit her web site at:

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