We've all had them: those holidays where we wished and wished and wished for one thing... and didn't get it. Or worse, got it to find out it wasn't worth the hype?
Here's a story of my childhood. One that will fill the hearts of geeks with sadness and sorrow.
I had asked for a Nintendo. You know, back in the day when they first came out and all the kids wanted one? The neighbor kids insisted I had to ask for one... I think it had to do with the fact that they thought I was more likely to get one than they were. After all, there were four of them to shop for and while I have siblings, they are all older, so I was raised as an only child in the house.
We always went to see my grandparents on Christmas Eve and stayed overnight. Christmas Eve, it was opening that first present, the obligatory new sleepwear, maybe a robe or fuzzy slippers thrown in. The next morning was a rush of breakfast and waiting and waiting whilst the adults got their coffee on, trying bleary-eyed to wake up after staying up too late the night before.
I don't even remember what I got, with the exception of that doozy of a final gift. There are photos, somewhere in a trunk, which show what I got, but Christmas is so fleeting when you're young. Only the very best and very worst gifts are memorable. I'm sure I got the requisite underwear, socks and clothes. I know I got a stocking filled with fruit and nuts. The fruit and nuts are a family tradition that requires its own post.
No Nintendo. I was disappointed and trying not to show it. Then, the doorbell rings. It's my mom's d-baggy boyfriend, holding a skeevy-looking used cardboard box. Not a cardboard box holding an array of wrapped gifts, just this terribly weathered box. "Merry Christmas!" he says to me, handing me the box. And there it is, in all its shameful glory: a used Atari 2600, surreptitiously purchased from the across-the-street neighbor whose daughter had outgrown it.
What? How could this be? It can't be a misunderstanding? What is this bizarre imitation of the gift I had so badly wanted, needed, to the core of my soul?
I was angry. So angry. I think I cried and ran and hid in the guestroom until dinner. It wasn't like my family couldn't afford a Nintendo. It's not like I didn't ask for this gift specifically enough. I would have traded every other item I had been given for this one thing. The one thing I didn't get.
Ungrateful, I know. I should be ashamed of myself.
Now I understand the hows and whys of how I came to acquire a used Atari, rather than the super-awesome Nintendo system I had begged for. The stores were simply out of them. The hot gift of the season. Simple as that. And I also realize that my grandmother would have called every store in a tri-county radius trying to find one for me. The Atari was the consolation prize.
There turned out to be some upsides to this in the end. The neighbor kids had parents who did Black Friday. They got their Nintendo, and gifted me with all their old Atari cartridges to play. Five months later, on my birthday, the Nintendo finally appeared and every holiday after that came the games. I played that thing to death. In fact, I had a small-time gambling ring going, betting on who could beat the ridiculous rules we set up. Who could max out their points first? Who would make it further into the game without dying? I was always sporting, allowing my competitor to go first... and use the turbo controller. Eventually, I got caught. I had a few other game systems after that, but none I loved more than that Nintendo.