The best Christmas I ever had didn’t have anything to do with family or the weather or food. It was not a heartwarming tale of snuggied families drinking cocoa by the fire. It had to do with cold, hard materialism. The best Christmas I ever had happened in 1992. I was six years old. I came down the stairs to see an absolute buttload of presents underneath the tree. And not just underneath the tree, but spread out over the floor. There were so many of them.
They were all Ninja Turtles action figures. I also got a Technodrome, a video cassette of the TMNT live musical, and maybe some of the weapons. But mostly it was those action figures. I tore the wrapping paper over and over and each time it was the most awesome gift I could have imagined. It was a frenzy of consumption so powerful I remember it vividly to this day. Like the first time I ever did [redacted].
I still think about that Christmas. That was when I overdosed on capitalism. That was literally the last time I wanted gifts to that extent. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a kick out of a nifty purchase or gift to this day. But 12/25/92 was the last time I felt the visceral, bloodlust thrill of tearing open presents. Baxter Stockman. Casey Jones. Shredder. On and on and on.
I’m trying to think of other times I felt that excitement. There’s a good one around 1998: I wanted a Playstation more than anything. One day in church, my mom told me that she’d already gotten me a boombox, and that she couldn’t afford a Playstation. I took it in stride, but deep down I was very upset that I wouldn’t get the game system. Xmas rolls around and I open my boombox. I tell Mom that I love it. Doing my best not to sound disappointed. Then she brings out “one last present.” It is, of course, a Playstation.
This is one of the best tricks my mother ever pulled, and one of the best lessons I ever learned. She allowed me to go through this inner turmoil without interfering or trying to assuage it. When I opened the Playstation, I felt two things: joy and guilt. I couldn’t help but be excited about my new toy. Once I had it in my hands, my pouting and temper tantrums (even though they were inside my head) felt deeply childish. The shame washed over me, and still does when I think back on it. Like the last time I ever did [redacted].
Merry Christmas everybody.
PS: My brother did this amazing remix of a field recording I did last month. It’s basically me walking through a gas station. Andrew turned it into something bizarre and amazing.