Helloooooo merry readers!!
How are all of your Decembers going so far?? I hope everyone has really been enjoying their festivities, eating lots of Christmassy treats, wrapping presents and all other festive fun! Today I’m bringing you another guest post – one from Greg Dennison. This is a special sort of guest post, done in the story-telling style Greg normally uses for his posts so I really hope you enjoy it!
December 23-25, 1985. A new family tradition born of immaturity and impatience.
When I was nine years old, my family got our first computer, a Commodore 64. This was one of those old computers that looked like a really thick keyboard, with the motherboard and chips and everything underneath. We set it up on a desk in our kitchen, since we had no better place for it, and I spent weeks reading the thick instruction manual and learning the fundamentals of programming.
The computer came with a bundle of games, and my parents did not realize that most of them required a joystick, the device that later generations of gamers would call a controller. I was disappointed that I could not play these games, by which I mean I threw a tantrum and called Mom and Dad bad parents, which got me spanked. Mom told me later that maybe I would get a joystick for Christmas.
A couple months later, as Christmas approached, I was playing Hangman on the computer one night. As in the traditional game, I guessed letters in a word; with each wrong guess, a crudely animated stick figure approached a gallows. Mom was doing dishes behind me, Dad was in the bedroom, and my four-year-old brother Mark was watching music videos on television. As I heard A-Ha’s “Take On Me” in the background, someone knocked on the door; I ran excitedly to the living room and opened it.
“Hi, Greg!” Aunt Jane said. She stood on the porch with Uncle Darrell and their children, seven-year-old Rick and five-year-old Miranda.
“Come on in,” Mom said. “I’m sorry the house is messy.”
“That’s okay!” Aunt Jane replied. “We left our house a mess when we left this morning.”
“I want to see the new computer!” Rick exclaimed. I led him into the kitchen and showed him the Commodore 64. “Nice!” he said.
Jane Lusk was my mother’s sister, who lived three hundred miles away. I had no family in the area other than one set of grandparents, but Aunt Jane and Uncle Darrell both grew up here and visited often. I looked forward to their visits, because I got to play with my cousins.
“I was playing Hangman,” I said. I guessed a wrong letter, and the man climbed closer to the gallows.
“Do you have any other games?” Rick asked. Rick looked through the stack of floppy disks and found a title that recognized. “I want to play Pac-Man!” he said.
“We can’t,” I replied. “It needs a joystick.”
“You don’t have a joystick? That sucks.”
“I’m getting one for Christmas. So we can play Pac-Man after we open presents.”
Rick soon got bored with the other games I showed him. The Lusks left after about half an hour, since it was late and they had been traveling all day. They came back the next day, and we four kids played Legos and Hot Wheels.
I went to bed on Christmas Eve excitedly thinking about the games I had not played yet. Pac-Man, which I knew from having played the coin-operated game. Dragonfire, with a guy who had to run into a castle guarded by a dragon; without a joystick I could not move him. Boulder Dash, about an underground world full of rocks, diamonds, and strange monsters. And others. I tossed and turned in my top bunk for an hour, thinking about exploring these new worlds.
I finally drifted off to sleep, and when I awoke, I was ready for video games. I got out of bed, vaguely aware that the house was still dark, and opened my parents’ door a crack. “Can I open presents yet?” I asked.
I heard stirring on the bed, then Mom said, “It’s one-thirty! Go back to sleep!”
Mark slept on the bottom bunk, and he had not awakened. I tried to relax, but it took a while to fall back asleep. After about an hour and a half, I woke up, and again ran excitedly to my parents’ bedroom.
“Is it time to open presents?” I asked.
“Go back to sleep!” Mom shouted at me. Dad snored through the commotion.
I returned to my bed and drifted to sleep thinking about Pac-Man eating the big pellet and the ghosts and the guy from Boulder Dash digging up diamonds. When I woke up, I hurried down the hallway yet again and asked Mom if I could open presents.
I heard someone get out of bed and search for something. Mom opened the door and handed me a cube-shaped box about four inches on each side, covered in red wrapping paper with snowmen on it. “Here!” Mom whispered angrily. “Go play and let me sleep! And turn the volume down when you’re playing!”
I trotted excitedly to the kitchen and saw the clock that said five-fifteen. I opened the box; it was a joystick, as I had expected. I held the rectangular device in my left hand, plugged it into the side of the computer, and put in Pac-Man. After waiting a couple minutes for the game to load, I moved Pac-Man all around that maze, using my right hand to move the stick. I gobbled power pellets, avoided ghosts, and ate the big pellets that let me eat the ghosts. I eventually got a high score of over fifteen thousand.
I had been playing for over two hours when Mom got up; I had moved on to Boulder Dash by then. “How do you like it?” Mom asked.
“It’s great!” I said. “Thank you!”
“You’re gonna be really tired today.”
“Maybe I’ll take a nap.”
“Then you’ll be up all night!”
“So? I don’t have to get up for school in the morning. I’ll be quiet, like I was today.” This was iron-clad logic to me, but I knew Mom would have a problem with it.
“This game looks interesting,” Mom said as I dug around looking for diamonds and avoiding falling rocks. “Maybe I’ll try playing it later.”
“Sure,” I said.
Mark got out of bed shortly after Mom and wandered to the kitchen. “I wanna play!” he said.
“Greg, give Mark a turn,” Mom said.
“I’m in the middle of a game!” I replied.
“Then let Mark play once you’re done.”
“I wanna play!” Mark said, trying to take the joystick from me.
“You’ll make me die!” I shouted, pushing Mark to the ground as a flashing square-shaped monster hit my character and took my last life. Mark started crying.
“Boys! Stop!” Mom shouted. “Can’t you be nice to each other on Christmas?”
“Mark made me die!” I said.
“You’ve had plenty of time to play! Just go eat, and then we’ll open the rest of the presents.”
“Fine.” I stomped off with my bowl of cereal as Mark moved the joystick wildly and quickly got eaten by the same monster that had killed me. Mark always seemed to get his way, and when I defended myself, I got in trouble. It was the same way with the mean kids at school. Fourth grade sucked.
Later that morning, we loaded the car with things we wanted to bring to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I could not bring the computer, so I brought my other big present, a Lego set called the Motorcycle Shop. It had actual motorcycle-shaped pieces, which I thought was awesome. Mark got lots of Hot Wheels and other toy vehicles, as well as a playset for the cars to drive on. I complained that Mark got more presents than me, and Mom reminded me that I had already opened one of my presents at five in the morning. I wanted to bring something else too, a surprise that I wanted to keep hidden. I put this other object in my pocket.
We met my grandparents and the Lusks at church; afterward, we all met up again at my grandparents’ house. The Lusks had already arrived, and Rick immediately noticed me carrying the new toys. “Whoa!” he said. “Motorcycle Shop!”
“I haven’t built it yet. We can build it now.”
“Mom?” I asked. “Is it time to open presents?”
“Not yet,” Mom replied.
I did not understand why we could not open presents, now that we had all arrived. I took the Motorcycle Shop to an undisturbed corner of the family room; Rick and Mark followed me. The shop had a showroom with glass windows made from clear plastic, with two motorcycles inside. A third motorcycle belonged to a rider in a helmet and black jacket, and an employee stood inside the shop. Rick and I built the shop easily, although we argued a few times when Rick tried to work ahead instead of following the directions. Mark drove one of the motorcycles around, while Mom went to play dolls with Miranda. The way Mom paid attention to Miranda and not our Legos made me feel like Mom wanted a daughter instead of me or Mark.
When it was time to open presents, we all filed into the living room. Grandma’s house was from the era when houses had seldom-used living rooms with fancy furniture. A large decorated tree stood in front of the tall windows facing the street. Wrapped gifts lay under the tree, waiting to be opened. I grabbed one that said “To: Greg, From: The Lusks.”
“Don’t open it yet!” Mom shouted.
“It’s okay,” Aunt Jane replied. “I think we’re ready.”
“Are we ready to start?” Mom asked. When no one objected, I unwrapped the box. Inside was another Lego set, called the Delivery Truck. “More Legos!” I said excitedly.
“I hope you don’t have that one,” Aunt Jane said.
“I don’t! Thanks!”
Everyone took turns opening presents. I got a bag of Hershey’s Kisses, new socks, and a ten dollar bill from Grandma and Grandpa. I passed out boxes and built my Lego Delivery Truck as everyone unwrapped toys, clothes, housewares, and books. Afterward, I went back to the family room and drove the Delivery Truck to the Motorcycle Shop, imagining a delivery of motorcycle parts, but since Mark and Rick had lost interest in Legos for now, I soon abandoned the Legos as well. I looked around the house at all of Grandma’s many Christmas decorations; she particularly loved pinecones and candles.
“Greg?” Mom said after I knocked a pinecone to the floor. “Why don’t you go put on some Christmas music?”
I had been waiting for this moment. Grandma had vinyl records of Christmas music sung by the great crooners of her day; I had always taken a particular liking to Perry Como’s Christmas album. But this year I had a secret plan, involving a song that Grandma would never let me play, and I knew that Mom would take Grandma’s side if she knew. I reached into my pocket for the cassette tape I had been hiding there all morning, placed it in the stereo, and pressed play.
“Grandma got run over by a reindeer,” the voice on the stereo sang.
“No!” Mom said. “Not this Christmas music!”
“What?” Grandma asked.
“Greg is playing ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.’”
“I don’t like this song!” Grandma said.
“What’s going on?” Aunt Jane asked. “What is this music?”
“This song is funny!” Rick said. “Leave it on!”
We stayed at Grandma’s house and ate and played for a few more hours. Dad, Grandpa, and Uncle Darrell watched basketball on television, and I played the Perry Como Christmas record next. Later that night, the Lusks came over to our house, and Rick got his turn to play computer games. We discovered quickly that it would be much more fun to have two joysticks, so that we could play two-player games. Now I had another toy that I was impatiently waiting to get.
At age nine, I could have explained that the true meaning of Christmas had to do with Baby Jesus being born. But at that age, I also would have said that my favorite Christmas carol was “What Child Is This,” because in the second verse, I got to say “ass” in church and not get in trouble. It would be another decade or so before I fully realized what the birth of Jesus truly meant. As a child, I was selfish and materialistic, but even then, nonmaterial family experiences were a big part of my Christmases.
After that year, we always opened Christmas and birthday presents the night before, so that I would not be impatient and wake Mom. This tradition continues to this day when I visit my parents for Christmas. Mom also feels a need to apologize excessively for buying gifts that I did not ask for, or that are slightly different from something I mentioned wanting. I know that this is a traumatic response to the tantrums I threw over unrealized birthday and Christmas gifts as a child, and I feel terrible about it. I have apologized to Mom many times, but the best thing I can do now is continue to be more thankful and less selfish.
So what did you all think about Greg’s post?? I hope you all enjoyed it and thanks again so much Greg for sending something in for Blogmas. How are you all enjoying Blogmas so far?? Do any of you have a favourite post so far, or any post that you really want me to write?? Let’s chat in the comments section!
Lots of love
Blondey on a Mission xxx