There was a time in my life when the single most important thing in my entire existence was a Mattel handheld electronic football game.
No, it wasn’t food or water, oxygen or sleep, mommy or daddy. The true meaning of Christmas was far beyond what I could appreciate at that moment, and the only thing that truly meant something to me was the prospect of receiving that beautiful little electronic toy with the flashing red dots that formed some semblance of a football game.
Comparing the technology of that game to what is available today would be like attempting to correlate the intricacies of the iPhone 6 with a lima bean. Perhaps that’s an overstatement on my part — the Mattel game did have a screen, and a few buttons. But, other than that... basically a lima bean with a screen and some buttons.
But it was cool, and my friends had them, so I had to, as well.
Like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story,” I stealthly planted the seeds in my parents’ brains. Of course, what was subliminal in my mind was ridiculously obvious to them, as my strategy consisted of having my friends bring theirs by the house so my father could play with them, and “leaving” random Christmas lists around the house that only had one item.
I figured if I didn’t look like a Christmas glutton by asking for everything, I improved my odds of eliminating some of those pesky underpants and socks that always got in the way of my merriment so everyone could focus on that football game, instead. The pulse in my thumbs tingled with anticipation of receiving Mattel’s little miracle, and I imagined lines of people forming outside my home, simply to catch a glimpse of my prowess at playing electronic football.
I was going to be a game savant, and people would write poems about how I brought the Russians to their knees with my ability to...
But I digress.
The point is, this was that one special Christmas present I longed for above all others in life. Maybe yours was a bicycle, or a Barbie, or world peace, if you’re just being pathetic. Regardless, many of us had the “one,” right?
It doesn’t matter anymore that when I did get it, I was as sick with the flu as I’ve ever been in my life and never got off the couch that day. I played that thing. And then I played it some more. And then I realized that if I faked to the left, and ran to the right, I could score a touchdown each and every time.
Each and every time.
So, yeah, I lost interest in my little brass ring pretty quickly, and it ended up in the pile of “must-haves” that never saw the light of day again, along with my pet rock, Etch-A-Sketch and “Mork & Mindy” lunchbox.
But nothing could possibly take away that feeling of anxiety the night before, trying without much success to fall asleep as soon as possible so Christmas morning would come sooner. Nor could it take away that feeling when the wrapping paper ultimately came off and I saw my precious game in my jelly-stained hands.
Editor’s Note: For reasons unbeknownst to me, I often had jelly-stained hands as a child. It’s not like I really ate that much jelly, per se, so I think the focus has to turn more to hygiene deficiencies at that time. After reading that line one more time, it would seem I’ve crossed that threshold again as far as what I should share and what I shouldn’t. Yet, here I am, and I’m still rambling. Please, forget you ever read this.
As the years have ticked off, I’ve learned that the Christmas season still means a great deal to me. I still love hearing Bruce Springsteen sing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and I still get a laugh or two out of the Grinch. But other parts of the holiday spirit have changed for me.
I now look forward to seeing family more than opening gifts, and I get a little more emotional when thinking of all the true blessings in my life. The financial and time pressures of the holiday make me appreciate more and more what my parents were able to accomplish when I was younger, and I now find myself thinking of them as superheroes, as opposed to sources of electronic football games or people with a direct hotline to Santa.
And I already received my new-favorite gift of all this year in the form of my new daughter. I was lying on the couch the other night with her sleeping on my chest and the lights from the Christmas tree warming the room, and I realized how much our wants and priorities do change. This is way better than that football game, I was thinking.
Of course, that football game never pooped on me. So, there’s that.