“Honey, what do you want for Christmas? I don’t know what to get you.” I don’t think I’ve ever had a good answer to that question, since I was about 12 years old. I’m a deeply scared adult male, but making up for it rapidly and vicariously through my child. I’ll explain.
When I was a kid I would put deep, concentration into exactly what I wanted for Christmas. I remember as a young kid wanting things that would impress my friends, good solid conversation pieces. It’s in guys’ blood to be competitive, be braggadocios and just plain show off. My parents, bless their hearts, just sort of “missed the mark” as far as gifts went. I’ll admit, we were a family of modest means, but sometimes I wanted to show the other kids at elementary school that I had and “edge”. I recall some of those incidents when my parents not only missed the bull’s eye; the dart missed the board entirely, putting yet another hole in the wood paneling that was my ego. This is the story of why I’ve started spoiling my child.
I distinctly recall the first thing I ever REALLY wanted. It was a skateboard. A killer one. It was the mid 70’s and the boom of the first extreme sport. Skateboarding magazine had just come out, guys were shredding abandoned swimming pools and empty half pipes. I wanted so badly to be a part of this culture. The technology of skateboards was booming at the time, but this was lost on my folks. That was the only thing I requested for Christmas that year. I would be ready to shred as soon as the snow melted in Kansas City the followig year. I remember opening that sadly wrapped skateboard, purchased at the local Ace Hardware store. It was a skinny board that said “Goofyfoot” on it. The thing had metal wheels! No lie. Do you remember the old metal skates that would strap around your shoes that were probably popular in the 50’s? I had the skateboard version of that, barely a generation above a Soap Box Car. Not exactly the envy of the neighborhood kids.
It was amazing the power of a t.v. commercial back then. Apparently, fans of Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch and The Beverly Hillbillies were prime targets for slot car racing. I’ll never forget the commercials for TCR, Total Control Racing. This was slot car racing with the ability to change lanes and pass on one section of the track. I was enamored with it. I was certain that the year had arrived that the TCR was going to be waiting for me under the tree. There was a race track that year, but not quite what I hoped for. It was, and I’m not making this up, a Hot Wheels set. Age appropriate for a kid a good 5 years younger than me. The pieces of track were wonderful for abusing my sisters, but needed to be hidden when friends came over.
The next thing I remember wanting badly was an electronic football game. Coleco had come out with amazing hand held game called Electronic Quarterback. It was really the first generation of what is now evolved into things like gameboy systems. Mobile coolness. It was pretty high tech for 1978. They had come out with the new version for two players called Head-to-Head Football for two players at once. This was very popular on my school bus rides home. It would turn into a tournaments and I needed to get better at this. I humbly put in my request that year. My mom, bless her heart, did her best, but got me Electric Football, which was a table sized football field. It was popular a good five years before that. You set up all your players on the field (a table), the opponent set up their, which were basically action figures and then you turned on the machine which was plugged in. The table would vibrate until your players fell down. It was ridiculous and even harder to play on the bus without electricity. Needless to say, I didn’t make any new friends that year.
The following year I had high expectations once again. Jam Boxes were huge that year. I don’t mean huge as in “popular”, I mean they were HUGE. The bigger the better. Junior high was in full swing and there was nothing cooler than showing up to a track meet with a monster radio. John Herrera was the most popular kid in our school because he always had the latest, greatest jam box. I recall one he had that included a record player! He was a shot putter on the track team, so hauling it around was not an issue. I simply put “Jam Box” on my wish list that year. I had distinctly different tastes in music from John and needed my own device. That year, I opened my Panasonic tape recorder. It in NO WAY resembled a Jam Box. I could have run the mile with it in my shorts. It would have come in handy if I was dictating legalese, but unfortunately on a 7th grade education, not necessary.
Have you noticed the common thread? I’ve been chronically 5 years behind the rest of the world for my entire life. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining. I’m merely doing some soul searching as to why I’m overcompensating now. Do you think it’s a bit odd I bought my daughter a computer when she was a fetus, I have a car waiting for her in the driveway and she’s just learning to read, and I’ve already booked her on a commercial flight to the moon.