As Christmas 2011 fades behind us, I thought I’d take a look back at the five GOOD gifts that stand out in my memory. We’ll leave out the bad ones for now. What are some of the gifts you remember most? These aren’t in any particular order.
1. The Big Wheel. I remember it being darker red than the pink in this image, but whatever. For a short while, this machine was cooler than a two-wheeled bicycle and I rode it until the front plastic tire was worn slick and had holes in it. My sister and I both got one. My cousin had the one with the back brake that would let you do a cool fishtail thing, but even without that I had all kinds of fun on this mean machine.
2. John Madden was still coaching the Raiders and likely hadn’t even dreamed of putting his name to an electronic football game when these handheld games were all the rage in the late 1970s. This is my actual game, and it still works. You couldn’t throw a pass on this version, and it was incredibly easy to beat after playing a couple of games; the only challenge then was seeing how high you could run up the score before the time ran out. My hand was a bit smaller when I first got the game.
3. Dungeon Dwellers: Caverns of Doom. There are really just no words to describe how I felt about this game. I loved it! I wasn’t much into Dungeons & Dragons, where there were no visual pieces, but this game, with it’s map of a dungeon and cave, with its pewter monsters and heroes and battle rules was just perfect for me. I remember spending many, many hours with my friend Ron on my bedroom floor playing this game while listening to Journey’s Escape and Styx’s Crystal Ball. We got the companion piece, Crypt of the Sorcerer, and bought a lot of extra figures. I still have the figures, but I think the boxes and maps are long gone. Too bad.
4. Long before the Big Wheel there was this Fire Chief pedal car. At our first house in Enid we had a covered patio between the back door and the detached garage and I would burn circles in that concrete in this car. I’ll never forget the day one of the pedal rods gave out and I coasted out of my circle to the back porch like an Indy driver who’d blown a motor heading for the pits. Sadly, the car was never repaired and one day a few years later I left it too close to the curb and the trash men picked it up. And yes, that is me in the car.
5. This leather jacket was a gift from my girlfriend circa 1983. Okay, okay, she became my wife. It’s important to keep in mind that she was only 16 years old and working part time when she bought this. I think she got it from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. I do know that it cost her over $100 at the time and that I was floored she’d spent so much on me. I outgrew it a long time ago, sadly, but my oldest son wore it quite a bit a few years back. Maybe the youngest will wear it, too, when he gets a little older. At this point, instead of being an old jacket, it’s retro-chic, right?
I have to give an honorable mention to the many books my parents bought me for Christmas. It was a big hassle for them that I wanted books because Enid — a city of over 40,000 people at the time — had no bookstore. There was no Internet, either. Books had to be special ordered through the city’s office supply store. The stand-outs are Where the Red Fern Grows in hardcover, The Lord of the Rings three-volume paperback set, along with The Hobbit, and Old Yeller, which I recall Mom saying she had a lot of trouble getting.