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A Very Sega Christmas

The Christmas of 1992 was the first Christmas following my parents’ divorce. I was a naïve kid who believed that my parents would be together forever, just like the perfect families seen on TV. Never in my mind did I imagine that something so brutal and Earth shattering would ever happen to me. Then it did.

My parents divorced a good six months before Christmas. I had time to cry, readjust, move into a new duplex, and make new friends at my new school. Christmas wasn’t even on my mind when all that was going on. Just learning to live with the new normal was all my adolescent brain could process at the time. I wasn’t a needy kid, and I didn’t ask for much, plus nothing I could possibly get would fix the damage that had been done already, so by the time Christmas rolled around I wasn’t really interested in presents. 

I think my dad realized my lack of interest in new toys and gadgets was unnatural for a nine year old, and he really pushed me to think hard about something I wanted that year. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t come up with anything. I wanted my parents back, the one thing I couldn’t have. I didn’t want two Christmases, two trees, and extra presents; I just wanted our old house and our old tree with all my favorite Snoopy ornaments on it. 

My dad wouldn’t give up on me though. We took special trips to Toys R Us and spent time browsing catalogs. He obviously couldn’t buy me anything to fix my shattered life, but he wanted to make sure Christmas was still special since I was reaching that age where the magic already starts to die. The trips to the toy store and catalogs didn’t pay off, but one day after school some impressive video game marketing finally broke through my depression and that fire for consumerism was reignited thanks to a furry blue hedgehog.

This commercial (or one very similar) blazed across my screen in the middle of my weekday cartoons. I was floored by the speed, bright colors, and attitude the commercial promised. The Sega Genesis made my neighbor's Super Nintendo look like a child’s toy, and as much as I loved Mario, I was ready to grow up. I wanted…. no, needed a Sega Genesis! 

A video game console was a little out of our family’s budget, even more so following the divorce. As you might remember, I got my Nintendo in a rather unusual fashion, so my parent’s had actually never bought me a console before. I knew I was asking a lot, but I went to my dad to plead my case. After a few minutes of trying to explain the vast superiority of Sonic the Hedgehog and 16 bit graphics, he looked at me with amusement and said, “So, you want a new Nintendo?” Which of course only flustered me into re-explaining everything with greater emphasis on how this was NOT a Nintendo, while he just smiled. Looking back, I think he was just happy to see me passionate about something all over again.

I didn’t have much faith in my father buying the Genesis though. A $189 console was outrageous for a poor Navy family. So, I decided to double-down and increase my chances by telling my grandfather that I wanted a Sega as well. He was by far the most well-off family member, and he loved technology. It was on his Commodore 64 that I first played Donkey Kong and I knew he appreciated video games, despite not being much of a gamer. He listened to my sales pitch with the utmost attention and I knew I had him sold. I couldn’t wait until Christmas!

Christmas came and with it came the frustration of being from a broken family. Over a three day period, I had five different Christmases: one at my mom’s, one at my grandma’s, one at my grandpa’s, one with my dad, and finally one at my other grandma’s house. I was exhausted after the first two at my mom’s and grandma’s, but I was really looking forward to my grandpa’s Christmas. When we arrived at his house, I couldn’t stop staring at the presents under the tree. I tried to size up which box looked most like a Sega Genesis box, and I started wondering if he’d let me hook it up to his TV. I paced back and forth and did my best not to act like a brat who didn’t care about anything but the presents, but it was hard to do. That Sega Genesis was the one thing that had kept me focused over the past couple of months, and I felt like my life depended on it. 

Christmas at my grandfather’s went about how I expected. We opened a lot of socks, pajamas, and our stocking before my little brother and I were presented with our big presents. As we gathered on the floor, sitting Indian style in front of the TV, a look of horror overcame my face. My brother’s present looked to be the exact same size and dimension as my present. Obviously, two Sega Genesis were out of the question, so it finally occurred to me that I was not getting a Sega Genesis after all. We tore into the boxes to find a rather impressive remote control F-14 fighter jet. I must have shown the disappointment on my face, because my mother and grandfather immediately went into damage control reminding me how I wanted this fighter jet that I saw at a store earlier this year, while emphasizing the cool sound effects and light up afterburners. I nodded, and tried out the controls, but inside the spoiled little brat within was devastated. 

The next morning my dad came to pick my brother and me up. We were going to spend our Christmas at his girlfriend’s parent’s house. It honestly doesn’t get much more awkward than that. I was dreading it, because I was not a fan of his girlfriend, and even worse, I was going to spend my Christmas at some stranger’s house. It was awkward as you might imagine, but I was happy to find that my brother and I were sharing their basement that was full of all sorts of VHS tapes from the 70’s and 80’s! Once I saw the hundreds of tapes, I ran to the boxes and started digging through them. I was so busy pulling out tapes to watch that night that I didn’t even notice the modest stack of presents next to the pull out couch. My dad quickly directed my attention to them, and my brother and I made an about face and I ran straight over to them. 

I grabbed a small present and started to tear the wrapping paper but my dad quickly tried to stop me. It was too late. What I found inside was a hard plastic case with a picture of the 1992 USA Dream Team staring at me. I was shocked to see something featuring all of my basketball heroes, but even more shocked to see the stamp with the word Sega emblazoned just below the team. I did a double take, then felt my heart skip a beat, before a giant, confused, smile overcame my face. I looked up to see my dad smiling back at me, holding a much bigger box. 

“I was trying to say you should open this one first, but it’s too late for that. I bet you can guess what’s in here” my dad said.

I grabbed at the box like my life depended on it and was thrilled to see the one thing I truly wanted for  
Christmas in my hands. My dad just smiled and laughed, as I just sat in silence staring at the magnificent box. I had given up on getting a Sega Genesis. I knew it was a long shot to begin with, and after my grandfather didn’t deliver, it never crossed my mind that my dad might have already gotten me one. 

As much as I loved the beautiful box, I did open it up and my dad helped me hook the system up to the TV in the basement and for the rest of the night, my brother and I took turns playing USA Basketball and Sonic the Hedgehog. It was the best Christmas I ever had.

The following morning we made our way to my grandmother’s house for our final Christmas celebration. My dad hooked up my Sega on my grandma’s TV, and my uncle was so amazed at how realistic the graphics and sounds were, he actually called a friend of his and held the phone up to the TV speaker so his friend could hear the player’s shoes squeak on the floor. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt prouder in my life than at that moment. It really was icing on the cake for the best Christmas I ever had. 

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Superman Posted on Jan 01, 2017 at 05:26 PM

Nice article. I remember the Christmas that I received my first video game console fondly. It was a Super Nintendo, and the fun I had playing it set me on the path to being the Nintendo fan that I am today.

massreality Posted on Dec 21, 2016 at 01:44 PM

@echidna64 Thanks, I really appreciate that.

echidna64 Posted on Dec 17, 2016 at 09:35 PM

I think that this is your best article yet Mass! Thank you for sharing!

massreality Posted on Dec 14, 2016 at 05:03 AM

Thanks guys. I'm glad you all enjoyed it. It was nice being able to relive a Christmas memory with people who actually understand the significance.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 13, 2016 at 04:04 PM

You're video game stories are always the best. This doesn't beat your Nintendo story for strange acquisitions (no prisoners had a Genesis to sell this year, huh?) But it definitely wins for best emotional roller coaster and happy ending.

Like so many of us here, I can relate on the divorced parents at holidays deal, but luckily my Mom's boyfriend's grandson was a cool kid and became one of my best friends, which helped smooth over the weirdness.

NLogan Posted on Dec 12, 2016 at 10:53 PM

When I won a X-Box 360 and gave it to my boys I opened it and created profiles and downloaded games like the week before so that it was ready to roll Christmas morning.

That F-14 looks sweet. I had WWII fighter that was gas powered but flew in a circle on a hand held line. I never did get a Genesis but I loved me some Altered Beast in the arcade and secretly wanted one but the Nintendo dominated in my house.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 12, 2016 at 09:39 PM

@vkimo: You said it, brother. All the rigamaro involved in setting up a console these days just sucks the fun out of it.

vkimo Posted on Dec 12, 2016 at 04:56 PM

Thanks for sharing. It's very poignant how video games help kids find refuge at times. Ever since the mid 80s the quintessential game console has taken the number on spot on most boys wishlists. I feel the magic is gone on todays consoles. I remember getting a Xbox 360 and spending 20 minutes to set up a profile and download the latest firmware, kind of killed the excitement

mickyarber Posted on Dec 12, 2016 at 04:05 PM

I had a very similar experience (without the divorce) when I got my Super Nintendo for Christmas one year. I begged for it for months, and on Christmas morning, I opened an SNES game first. My parents played it off, saying it was a mistake and it was for my brother. (He already had and SNES since he was working). But at the end of the morning, there was the SNES in the last package.

I seem to recall having a very similar, if not the exact same, remote controlled fighter jet once upon a time too.

But good read, and you really triggered some old memories for me.

SockofFleagulls Posted on Dec 12, 2016 at 01:23 PM

Thanks for sharing. My parents divorced just a couple years before you and I know some of those feelings. Luckily I was in high school so I had many years of great Christmases together.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 12, 2016 at 08:33 AM

Man, I can feel the disappointment of your grandpa's gift from here. LOL. Thankfully your dad came through and really helped life make sense again, even in the midst of all the awkward proceedings. Great story sir!

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