Last night I found myself at Wal-Mart, staring through a dirty display case at a brand-new red Nintendo Wii.
The limited edition video game bundle included a single controller, Nunchuck and two games: Super Mario Bros. and the already-classic Wii Sports.
My girlfriend, Joy, cleared her throat: "Well?" Children weaved past us, yelling. A mother followed behind them, grumbling.
I put my hands in my pockets. Gazing through the glass, my mind wandered to my eighth birthday.
It was a summer day in 1989. "Open it! Open it" shouted my cousin Billy. I clawed at the gift wrap around a non-descript rectangular object.
Gathered at my house were my cousins and my Aunt Jerri. They all watched with smiles as I tore the first strip of colorful paper from the box to reveal:
My heart nearly burst through my chest, and I jumped up and hugged Aunt Jerri. My folks were next, and then I high-fived every single kid at the party. The world was a perfect and just place.
The special edition NES contained two controllers, the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt game cartridge as well as an ultra-sleek red Zapper gun for shooting ducks and clay discs on the screen.
I tore into the box, revealing the red gun. Holding up the zapper, a ray of sunlight caught the plastic sheen, and it shimmered like hard candy.
Joy nudged me and I came back to reality. "What do you think?" I asked, watching kindergarten-aged kids zip past us in the electronics section. "You think it's worth it?"
Joy shurgged. "It's up to you. It's your money." My hand went automatically to my chin. I got down on my haunches for a closer look at the glowing red box behind the glass case.
A Wal-Mart worker walked up behind us. "Can I help y'all with anything?" Looking at her, I nodded. It was beyond my control.
"Yes," I said. "I think I'm gonna get this Wii, right here."
She opened the display case. "Which one?"
Was there ever a question?
The fluorescent glow of the Wal-Mart superstore took me back to a similar scene at age 13. My mom and I were doing some Christmas shopping in December of 1994.
I was as bored as any 13-year-old boy on a shopping trip with his mom, but a stop at the electronics section lifted my spirits. "Mom?" I said, tapping her on the arm. "I'm gonna go play the Super Nintendo, okay?"
She nodded. I jogged over to the demo set-up, and watched a couple of boys my age play through the new Super Mario Bros. on two-player mode. I waited and waited, but they wouldn't budge from the game.
Fifteen minutes passed, and my mom came back over. It was time to go. With sadness, I walked away from the electronics section, yearning to one day milk the glory from my very own SNES.
On Christmas morning, 1994, I awoke to find an oddly familiary-looking rectangular present beneath the Christmas tree. Could it be, I thought, as I tore open the festive gift wrap.
Indeed, it was.
I nearly lost control of my emotions and shed a tear right there. Glorious. A smaller, rectangular package buried beneath the fake pine needles caught my eye.
Grabbing the present, I ripped open the gift wrap and my jaw hit the ground.
Distinctly, I recall the pain in both of my wrists as I tried to sleep that Christmas night, dreaming about eight more hours of Donkey Kong Country on my Super Nintendo.
As we exited Wal-Mart last night, Joy asked me what kind of games I wanted Santa Claus to bring for the Wii. I grunted something resembling English as I envisioned hours of unbridled happiness.
We walked upstairs and went inside the apartment. I set the bag containing my new Nintendo Wii in the floor in front of the television. Glancing toward the kitch, I remembered there were dishes that needed to be washed. It was my turn.
I glanced at the dishes, then looked down at the glowing red box:
I could've sworn it winked at me.
Sinking down to my knees, I opened the box. The magic of Nintendo was in the air. The factory fresh scent of the cardboard wafted. New ink from the instruction manual was intoxicating.
Joy watched me from the couch as I sniffed at the video game box. "What ARE you doing?"
"It's glorious," I snorted.
Two hours of video gaming glory ensued before I so much as glanced at the dirty dishes. I started with the new Super Mario Bros., and lured Joy into a game of bowling (at which she murdered me).
Putting video games before chores has always been a weakness. I recall one day at my friend Neil's house when we spent the afternoon annhilating each other with slick digital weaponry:
We both had received shining new N64s for Christmas in 1996. At some point that Christmas day, Neil's dad told us it was time to go outside and pick up sticks.
Fat chance. That year, the word "Bond" would take on a whole new meaning and would grace my 15-year-old vocabulary no less than 10,00 times.
Neil and I would stare vacantly at the television screen from dawn until dusk during that summer, smiling at 64-bit solace. Chores were an afterthought.
With sadness this morning, I retired several old systems like the N64 to the bedroom closet. The congolmeration of gaming consoles had for too long cluttered the space beneath our television set.
A cardboard coffin for my homies.
For consolation, I looked toward the shiny, red Nintendo Wii sitting stately on the hardwood floor. More than 20 years of nostalgia flashed through my brain.
Picking up the controller, I pushed the power button on the brand-new Nintendo. It was my happy place, and tradition never felt so good.