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Saturday, August 13, 2022

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Savoring Christmases Past

My fondest childhood Christmas memory goes back to 1988. I was 12 years old, and the Nintendo Entertainment System was all the rage. A lot of my friends already had one, and I wanted one, too.

My parents couldn’t understand why I wanted a Nintendo so badly. I had an Atari 2600 and a Commodore Vic-20 computer. Why did I need another electronic toy? (FOMO was as real in 1988 as it is today)

Christmas morning rolled around and, as I opened up gifts, I didn’t find a Nintendo and I panicked. It had to be there, I thought. That’s when my grandmother called my name and handed me a large, rectangular box from the back of the tree. Ripping it open, I could see the picture of the console on the front of the box. I thanked my grandparents and rushed to my room to hook up my new gaming system. I’ll never forget watching that little 8-Bit Mario die countless deaths that morning between levels 1-1 and 1-3. And the graphics, whoa! (You’ll have to humor me as I came from geometric shapes on an Atari and a Commodore. Humans in those games looked like colorful letter Fs with serifs.)

This Christmas, I encourage you to reflect on some memories of your childhood Christmases. Can you recapture some of the magic? Better yet, can you share it with your children?

Nearly every Christmas after was filled with some electronic request: A Nintendo Game Boy in 1989. A Super Nintendo in 1990. And countless cartridges for those systems in the following years. 

If your childhood was like mine, you’ll see we aren’t as different from our kids as we think. I’m sure my asking for a $129 game console in 1990 is the monetary equivalent to my kids asking for a $399 console in 2021.

Here’s the part where we go full cycle.

Lately, I’ve been getting back into retro gaming. My friend Phil built me a Raspberry Pi, a small computer the two-thirds size of an iPhone and three times as thick. He filled it with all the games we played as kids across every system imaginable—Nintendo, Sega, SNES, Genesis, Gameboy, Atari, and arcade fighters. When I opened the package, he left a note that said, “Your childhood.” 

I’ve had many great evenings playing after work and sharing some games with my kids. My boys are too good for retro—they have a Switch, an Oculus Quest, and their own computers with Steam—but my daughter enjoys playing Sonic 2 and Bubble Bobble together. And each time I fire it up, I’m reminded of those Christmases past. Opening those gifts as a tween and teen and the delight I felt. Parents may not understand the appeal of gaming, but for many kids, boys especially, it’s the nucleus of their social lives. They learn to collaborate, interact, compete, and nurture common interests.

This Christmas, I encourage you to reflect on some memories of your childhood Christmases. Can you recapture some of the magic? Better yet, can you share it with your children? 

I hope you all have happy holidays, a merry Christmas, and a joyous new year. Thanks for spending another year with Fredericksburg Parent. 

Chris Jones
Chris Joneshttps://www.fredericksburgparent.net
Chris Jones is an award-winning journalist and graphic designer and editor of Fredericksburg Parent. When he's not editing or digging up ideas for stories, he loves playing classic video games with his 5-year-old daughter, getting outdoors with his boys, rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams, and reading books.

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