I was always one of those fortunate kids growing up that received really great presents from my parents. I never wanted for anything, but obviously there were a few toys that my parents didn’t allow me to have that I always wanted: Easy-Bake Oven (cursed root of all my domestic woes in the modern-day kitchen), a Big Wheel (Mom thought I would roll out onto our dead-end dirt private street and get instantly terminated by a speeding car) and not letting me go see Duran Duran at The Worcester Centrum on their Seven & The Ragged Tiger tour when I was 13 years old. She had read in the local newspaper that all that banging people did on the seats was going to cause the structure to come crashing to the ground. (Still haven’t forgiven my mother for not letting me see my favorite Super Group of the 80’s)
But sometimes I got exactly what I wanted, too. As was the case with just having to own the first video game console that was all the rage in early 1980-The Atari 2600.
I remember my dad driving us down to RH White’s at Lincoln Plaza to buy me the gaming system. The lower level of the store had a housewares section, a candy counter and other domestic things such as the Atari 2600 locked up in a glass case. Go figure. I want to guess that my dad paid about $200 for the Atari. But the fact that he also bought me Pac-Man for $50 specifically sticks out in my mind because it was like a windfall for me. I had just won the kid lottery and it wasn’t even Christmas or my birthday.
My dad drove a trailer for most of his life and earned really good money at the time for being a long-distance driver. He could afford really expensive things like a tricked-out Harley Davidson, a huge heated waterbed, tons of toys for me and the ability to give my mom the credit card so we could go down to Lincoln Plaza shopping pretty much on a daily basis.
But still–he bought me my first gaming system. I loved Pac-Man it was the only video game I turned out being really good at. I loved the chomping sound as I moved my little yellow friend deftly through a stress-filled maze loaded with colored ghosts trying to break my manic stride of eating as many dots as possible all the while hoping to make it to the next level.
I was all about the score. I remember that was how I could tell if I was gaining skills maneuvering around the maze. Pac-Man brought me hours of fun when I was a pre-teen and I’ll always remember it was my Dad who gave me one of the coolest gifts ever.
In later years, I was able to get the Pac-Man video game in various formats for other systems like Sega Genesis, but it was never the same as when I was 13 years old. The magic was long gone. But fortunately the memories remain that at one time in my life, I was the coolest kid in my neighborhood because my dad spent a fortune buying me an Atari 2600.