When I was younger I loved the movie Goonies. I thought it was probably the best movie in existence next to Star Wars. Kids were the protagonist, they were on a treasure hunt, and the leader was an asthmatic. What more could an asthmatic kid want?
Mikey’s struggles of being a regular kid and attempting to breath at the same time were personal to me. Too many times had I sat on the sidelines and watched my friends run or trotted slowly behind them gasping for air, holding my inhaler, and trying to keep up.
Later, another favorite was The Color Of Magic, one of Terry Pratchett’s adored Disc World books brought to life. There was also Rudy. I am not a huge American Football fan, but I loved the movie Rudy because it proved determination can get you places your size and you brain can’t.
Then came The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Everyone knows Frodo would never had made it with out Sam. These were all good movies that encouraged and, in some small way, helped shape me into the person I am.
However, these movies and the many more Sean Astin has on his professional list are not the reason he is my hero. That begins with the voice of a turtle and time taken for a small boy.
Among the many feathers in Sean’s cap, is the voice of Raphel from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon. I was unaware of this as my son and I stood in line to get his autograph this past Sunday. The line was long and jittery with anticipation.
I was standing in line because of Mikey, Rudy, Twoflower, and Samwise. Maybe also because I had seen a few short clips in the dvd extras of Sean Astin being Sean Astin. He seemed like a pretty cool guy, and he obviously has good taste, so I wanted to meet the man in person. My son was with me because in large crowds he is never very far away from my side. (His sister was off raiding the concession stand under adult supervision.)
We had gotten in line early because I missed my chance for an autograph the day before. Sean was late arriving and my feet were sore by the time he made it to his table, but all that was forgotten in the excitement of meeting someone famous. (He ran a marathon that morning, so I think being a few minutes late is understandable.)
As the few people in front of me greeted their hero and got their autographs, I was seized by a case of blank brain. Then my son bumped my hand and I looked down.
Blue eyes, under a yellow plush Pikachu hat, looked back at me. I thought of all the times those eyes were clouded in tears because of bullies at school, or the frustration of being mistaken for a kindergartner even though he is in fourth grade. I thought of the parent teacher conferences where his teacher insisted she wanted him to “be a lion not a turtle.”
So when my turn came I stepped forward…and didn’t have to say much of anything. Sean Astin didn’t over look my son. He said hi to him and greeted him in a voice from a cartoon he watches every morning before school. You could see the dawn of “hey this guy is pretty cool” spread across my son’s face. I got my pictures signed and traded a few words of my own, and then mentioned that my blue eyed boy was in the fourth grade and sometimes got picked on.
Sean took over from there. I had hoped for a few words of encouragement. Instead we held up the line for at least ten minutes, while Mr. Astin looked at my son straight on and talked to him as a person. He passed on words of encouragement of course, but more than that was the feeling that he understood. It wasn’t just empty platitudes. It was: You are an awesome person no matter what your size. I believe in you and I mean it.
By the end of conversation my sometimes shy son, was showing Sean pictures of his dog on my phone and chatting away. We walked away from the table with an autographed picture of Raphel and feelings of awe and gratitude.
My son wouldn’t let me put his picture with mine for safe keeping. He carried it around with him for the rest of the day and read the words written on it over and over to himself. Looking at my son I had to blink away tears a couple of times.
I am sure that the people waiting in line behind us while Sean Astin took those ten minutes were wishing we would hurry up. However, I will be eternally grateful that the other fans waited while he took the time to talk to a small boy. That is why Sean Astin is my hero. Thank you sir.