Anniversaries

This past week presented two anniversaries of things that made profound impacts on my life. One I got to share with the boys, the other puts a small distance between us.

The unifying factor is Star Wars. While not quite the obsession that it once was in our house, the boys still love it. This past week was the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, the pinnacle of the trilogy. This announcement was met with mixed reviews from the boys. “So, this movie is older than you dad?” C asked.  No, son, daddy is older than all the Star Wars movies. M followed up, “so, you were just a baby when Empire came out?” No, son, daddy was not a baby. Daddy was old enough to see the first Star Wars movie in the theatre, your Aunt Polli took me. This led to some silent introspection. Yeah, daddy is old, boys (at least in your minds…).

So, we watched Empire over the weekend (after finding the missing DVD, the loss of which was giving me agita). The boys had some solemn reflection this time around. The Hoth monster is a messy eater. M believes that Taun-tauns are camels and wonders if “they exist in life.” M also thinks that Yoda is a pickle. Couldn’t get more on this last one, it was just one of his proclamations that he quickly forgets making. C thinks bounty hunters are bad people. But not Boba Fett, he’s cool.

The second anniversary was also the 30th anniversary of the release of Pacman. Who knew they came out at the same time?

This is the token of childhood that places a small gulf between me and the boys. They don’t get Pacman. I love it, still.

I loved it on the Atari, played it in arcades and had two versions of it at home, one a miniature arcade version from Coleco and one handheld that looks like aslightly smushed Pac, from Tomytronic. Both had their merits. The mini-arcade version, of course, because it was the first game I ever had that looked like it belonged in the arcade and gave me (false) hope that I would soon have a full sized version in my room as well. It also had the lesser benefit of when you got frustrated and smacked the side of the console, instead of stinging your playing hand, it had the decency to fly across the room. The little yellow Pac was my favorite. The screen was longer horizontally than vertically and for whatever reason I was really good at it (much to the chagrin of my parents who probably still hear that song playing in their nightmares).

My parents still have both of those games in a cabinet in their living room. This came as a surprise to me, but in one their adventures of touching everything they’re not allowed to touch in Grammy’s living room, the boys found them. They approached them like two curious archeologists. “Whoa, dad, what are these?” I tried to explain that they were video games, but neither boy understood how they connected to the TV. My mom suggested putting batteries in them, and to my shock, the Tomytronic started right up (the Coleco may have been hit across the room a few too many times…). But little Pac was good to go. The screen lit up, the music kicked it (I think I saw my mother shudder) and the boys… just stared. “What do we do?”

So, I busted out my best Pacman moves for them, explaining as I went along. Eat the dots, avoid the ghosts (unless you have the power pill) and get the cherries. I played, not as well as I once did, but not too bad. C warned me that a ghost was following me and that I should shoot it. No guns in Pacman, son. Does he fly? No, just eats dots and cherries. The boys quickly lost interest in the game. We still turn it on, but they don’t like to play it as much as they like having the music play (I bet Grammy is regretting here decision to keep this one around…) They still play it now and again at my folks’ house, but they don’t really see the thrill. I hate to tell them that I used to watch the Pacman cartoon (Ms. Pacman’s name was Pepper!), drooled over my friends Pacman game watch and even had a board game version of Pacman with marbles to eat…

Sure, it’s no Wii, but I would love to know how many hours of productivity were lost last week when 30- and 40-somethings found out that Google had Pacman on their home page to be played. Pacman was the first game I remember that had multiple objectives. Eat the dots, avoid the ghosts, get the cherries, use the tunnel from one side of the screen to the other! It may have given rise to some mild ADD in kids, but it was better than Space Invaders! (I know, surely sacrilege to some.)

I’m sure we’ll have plenty of divides like this over the years, but it was interesting to have two such anniversaries in a week.

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