Only children… spoiled brats all!!! At least that’s what many people assume when they hear a child has no siblings. Like that fictional terror, Veruca Salt, they must be lavished with daily gifts lest they throw a tantrum of monumental proportions if their parents forget.
Well, that wasn’t the case in my home growing up. Throughout the year if I spied a new toy or a book I wanted I had to work for it whether it was yard work, washing the car, or doing my own laundry. Sometimes my dad would even reward me for a good report card (straight A’s or nothing). So if I wanted that new Dewback, Star Wars poster, or the Escape From the Death Star board game I was going to earn it.
The one exception was Christmas. To be honest my parents probably went a little overboard on the gift giving on Christmas, but then again they went overboard for everyone in the family. Christmas was that one time of the year where we all got to spend time together as a family. My mom worked, and during the autumn and winter my dad, who worked for Motorola, would be away on business trips to Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan. So Christmas was always a pretty special time for us. But what I didn’t know was just how special Christmas ’79 was going to be.
Like the previous two years, my Christmas list mainly consisted of Star Wars stuff. Since I usually had to by my own toys during the year and my budget was limited, I realized that if I bought action figures, or other relatively inexpensive things with my allowance, I could usually ask for the playsets or vehicles and my parents wouldn’t balk. That Christmas I asked for a couple of new playsets like the Cantina, the Jawa Droid Factory; but my biggest dream present was the brand new Millennium Falcon spaceship.
To be honest, I didn’t hold out a lot of hope that I would get the Falcon. I had trolled the local toy stores, and the big department store like Montgomery Wards and J.C. Penny, and none of them could keep the toy in stock. As soon as they got a new batch in they would fly off the shelves. So my new goal was to get it for my birthday that upcoming July.
By Evans family tradition I was allowed to open one gift from under the lavishly decorated Christmas tree. My mom usually set a handful of presents underneath the tree. Because my mom worked in a retail department store, I had become intimately familiar with department store boxes and I knew they almost always contained one thing… clothes. I always avoided these boxes like the plague. But there was this moderate sized box that seemed to call me. I tore into the paper and saw the words “Kenner” emblazoned on the corner… cool Star Wars.
I pulled the box out of the wrapping. I was some kind of Star Wars game called the Electronic Battle Command Game. I had seen the game on shelves a few times, but it never caught my attention, but based on the box it looked extremely cool. And if was half as fun as my Mattel Electronic Football, then I’d be s happy camper. Of course like all of the best, most awesome toys the box clearly stated “Batteries No Included,” so my dad scurried off and returned with a package of batteries (he appeared to have an endless supply of them as I recall). I plopped them in, did a quick run through of the instructions and turned on the game.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened the rest of the night as I spent most of the evening playing the game… it was mesmerizing.
Basically the game was like an electronic version of battleship, with LED light representing you, and other lights representing your targets. The catch is you can all move around the grid screen. In the more advanced levels you could move off the current grid field into another making the battlefield area bigger. You could do sesnsor sweeps, use evasive maneuvers so your enemy would miss, or put up shields to disappear. As an added bonus you could play with up to four players.
The game served me well for many, many years, and I would even pull it out on occasions during my high school and college years…
My biggest surprise was waiting for me Christmas morning. Every year we would go to a traditional midnight candlelight Christmas service, and every year I could barely sleep, excited for Christmas morning with the tree, presents, egg nog, candy, and the anticipation of the excellent Christmas feast at my grandmother’s house later that day. As usual I woke up around 5:30 (crazy kid) in the morning and would sneak into the living room. The night before it was fairly sparse underneath the Christmas tree with only a few presents my parents and I were exchanging with each other, but magically the number of presents had multiplied. The living room was packed with them, thanks to Santa.
Another part of Evans Christmas tradition was that my parents just wanted to sleep in. They knew I woke up, too excited to contain myself; so they would allow me to select a present or two to open before I woke them up. They figured, rightly, that it would at least distract me long enough so they could at least get one more hour of glorious sleep. But there was one hard and fast rule… I could not open an large presents; they had to be smallish. So I selected two. One was pretty cool model of the U.S.S. Arizona I had seen at the hobby shop that my dad thought I would like; the other was the Droid Factory I had wanted. Fortunately for my parents the playset would keep me occupied for a while.
What I didn’t notice all this time was that my parents had tucked one present away behind a cabinet…
My parents woke up and we began the traditional opening of gifts. When we were almost done my mom called out to my dad and asked him to get, “…that special present from Santa.” It was a huge box (to me). I had no clue what this was. The year before my dad had gotten me this really cool Battle of Navarone toy soldier set complete with Nazi mountain base and gun turrets. It was about the same size… maybe it was another World War II set?
My dad set the box down and I immediately tore into the paper…. I had my Falcon. But, just like Electronic Battle Command, the batteries were sold separately…
May the Force Be With You