A Birthday Retrospective, Part One: Years 1-10

(Writer’s Note: This was actually written on Sunday, March 10th, 2019. My birthday is the 12th of March. Thank you.) I’ll be 30 in two days. Please ignore the incongruity of 30 and two, they apply to separate entities and I don’t mind their weirdness in the same sentence. As a man who feels more like a child most days, 30 is probably supposed to spark some sort of rush toward adulthood and seriousness for me.

I say, maybe. I don’t make as much money as I believe I deserve. I don’t believe as much money as I deserve to make. I don’t deserve as much money as I believe I make. I believe I make not enough. I don’t deserve not enough, I deserve way more. My not making as much as I deserve is a disservice to me and the people I serve.

Belay this shit. Get on with the retrospective.

I should probably work on finding more fulfilling work. It’s not just about the money, but satisfaction. I work for a corporation. That’s not an upstanding faction. While they divide my soul into fractions, I should strive for something more, and better. But first, let’s think backwards through words. Backwords? You may have read it here first, folks.

When I was one year old, I, no no I’m kidding, I can’t remember that far back. Alls I know about that time comes from the people who were there, namely, me mum. I know I was born prematurely. Eight weeks, to be more precise – a time period verging on two months. I was a tiny, frail infant. More tiny and frail than most infants are. Two pounds and fourteen ounces tiny. Had to be kept in an incubator for a while frail. Sometimes my mom says I’m a miracle child. I don’t often see myself in such glowing terms, but when I’m having a bad day, it helps to remember that from the get-go I was beating odds.

The earliest years are a blurry haze. I recall a dream from sometime in my fourth year of life, a dream in which I am jumping or floating on/above an all-white bed. A huge bed. I think my dad is there too. As far as real life goes, there was some kind of flood in the apartment in which we all lived, but once again, these details are not remembered personally, they are passed on to me by adults who had fully functioning memory machines (read: brains) at the time. When I was five, my sister was born. I have a younger brother too, but I don’t remember much about his birth because I was about two-and-a-half then. So I’m the oldest child. That’s not important, it’s just a fact that helps me ground other aspects of my life in something that resembles reality. Some process that approaches continuity. So let us continue.

I remember a pre-school/kindergarten situation at some sort of school. I remember really liking Batman and, thereby, Batman-related products when I was a kid. I remember grape soda from the soda machine in the darkened eating area. It was open to the playground, but the way the brick ceiling hung over all the tables somehow stopped the sun from reaching this area’s innermost recesses. Heh, I remember recess.

I don’t exactly remember going to the hospital, but I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was five. The legend goes that I was discovered outside our open refrigerator in the night, with empty cans and bottles of soda and other beverages strewn about me. I didn’t understand the biological/medical reasons for it, but I possessed a monstrous thirst. It was my body’s attempt to flush the sugar out of my system. My blood sugar was astronomically high, I assume. Bodies are clever things, even if the five year old doesn’t understand that shoving more sugar into himself won’t help. I tried, though. I had no idea what was going on.

My parents divorced when I was six. In that situation, I also had no idea what was going on. I just didn’t see my dad as often as I used to. My siblings and I visited him every now and again. I vaguely recall an apartment or a house he must have been working on, because the emptiness of the place and the smell of paint are the only details that stick in my brain. I sort of remember going to North Carolina to visit my dad’s dad, and the really cool miniature bowling game/toy I played with while I was there.

I seem to remember a lot of weird stuff. Memory, right? It’s never exactly right, but what’s left is still precious. I attended an elementary school called Timber Trace for my 2nd and 3rd grade years. I should have mentioned this paragraphs ago, but I was born in Florida. When people ask me where I’m from, I typically start my response by saying “I’m originally from Florida, but … ” The “but” is important here. I had some pretty good times at Timber Trace. I met a young man who became my first best friend. Michael Black is his name, and if he ever finds his way to this blog for some strange, unforeseen reason, I want him to know I wish him well. We spent a good deal of time in the after-school program at Timber Trace, and my first brush with swearing and being a generally unsavory person occurred there. There was a counselor in this program, by the name of Pedro, if I recall correctly. Pedro was a really nice guy. I had no beef with him. But somehow we learned that raising only one’s middle finger was something that people just shouldn’t do. As eight-year-old kids interested in mischief, we had to do it. For some reason we picked Pedro as our target.

Pedro didn’t see us flip him off. We didn’t mean any harm by it, not directly. But I still feel guilty for unknowingly using such a rude gesture on him.

My good times with Michael Black came to an end, however. On my way from eight to nine, my mom met a man in an online chat room. This was right around 1997, going into 1998. The internet was just starting its transformation into a household phenomenon. My mom was on the cutting edge, it seemed. She fell in love with the man. She decided she wanted to be with the man.

My stepdad lives in Reno, Nevada. “I’m originally from Florida, but …” But I grew up in Nevada. I count Reno as my home. Most of my loves, I discovered in this weird desert haven for gambling and second chances. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I have a story that involves two Christmases.

Christmas the First: When I was six, still in Florida, my dad bought me a Super Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. There were a few games among my Christmas presents, and Donkey Kong Country was one of them. Thus began my lifelong love affair with Nintendo, Donkey Kong, and video games in general. I’d borrowed a neighbor’s GameBoy to play what I vaguely remember being a Kirby game once or twice, but the Super Nintendo was the first console I owned. It was special. When I discovered a Super Nintendo in the rec room at the Timber Trace after-school program, I turned it on. Super Mario World booted up, and, hilarious as it sounds, I had no idea what the fuck was going on. I’d never played a Super Mario Brothers game in my life up to that point. Soon I would better understand the totally rad nature of that after-school Super Nintendo.

Christmas the Second: In Nevada, I was delighted to discover that my step-siblings had a Nintendo 64. We always call it the N64, ’cause we’re cool like that. Of course, one of the treasures of the N64 days is Super Mario 64. You bet that my nine-year-old self played the heck out of that game. The real magic struck during the Christmas of ’98, however. I was nine, going on ten. I had a fresh GameBoy Color, the neon green one, and Link’s Awakening, but I can’t remember if that was before or after this momentous Christmas. That’s because that Christmas, we kids received what every gamer child wanted that year: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. When most folks start talking about Zelda, I say “Yeah, Ocarina was the first one I played.” Even though it might have been Link’s Awakening. Most people know Ocarina at this point.

I’ll probably write a post about Link’s Awakening soon, since the remake was announced a short while ago, but for now, I’m thinking back on the first ten years of my existence. By the time I was ten, I had dabbled in Donkey Kong, Mario, and Zelda. I had played Nintendo’s masterpieces from that time period, and I was all about them. My devotion to video games had only just begun.


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