A blast from childhood


Recently, I gave in to impulse. And while it’s been great, I’m trying very hard to make sure it doesn’t take over my life.

Terry and I were out running errands, and we stopped in a store, and…

We found a Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition.

Actually… funny side note… we found both the SNES Classic and the NES Classic. I had been looking—not deeply and aggressively, but more with occasional glances toward electronics departments looking—for the SNES. I wanted it for Donkey Kong Country. We had stopped in one store on this particular day and found the original version, the Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition. (And for those of you wondering, yes, there is a difference.) We decided to grab it anyway, since it also had some fun games and had been equally difficult to find. As in… this was the first time we had seen either in stock anywhere.

But the NES Classic only comes with one controller, so finding it led to another stop while we were out to see if I could locate a second controller, which the first store didn’t have in stock. And… because, of course… the second store had the SNES. Now that comes with two controllers, so… ok… never mind. I can feel that this part of the story is losing you. Back to the main story…

I made the exchange, bought an SNES Classic, and I have been playing Donkey Kong Country. Trying to limit my time on the unit I might play for a few minutes each day, but now I’m at the final level and haven’t been picking up the patterns and pacing that well. And the fact that the system also comes with Super Mario Kart along with other games is making it even more difficult to put away each day.

The exciting part is that the game has been a lot of fun to revisit. Not quite as exciting as the first time I played it, which included several friends that were battling the game at the same time, but still a lot of fun.

I grew up in a great neighborhood. Three streets, with two of them cul de sacs. Even if we didn’t know what the inside of some of the houses looked like, we knew all of the folks that lived there. Given trick-or-treat expeditions of my younger days, I feel quite safe saying I have stepped at least four or five feet into every house within three blocks of my childhood home.

A group of us decided to paint a mini baseball field in the road of one of the cul de sacs, which we referred to as the circle. (As in: “Hey mom, I’m going to play in the circle.”) With three streets and two dead ends, you probably can understand why there was amazingly little traffic along our roads. As in, if you didn’t live there, you never drove there. That mid-street field ended up being used for kickball and all sorts of other games over the years, but one in particular stands out.

In the way that only kids can—never understanding can’t-be-done limitations and unburdened by the restrictions of experience—one of my best friends and I created an amazing game. We called it tennis ball. (I know. But at the time, when it came out as the name in literally an instant, it seemed so perfect that we couldn’t bring ourselves to change it once we realized what we had done.) Essentially it was baseball, using a tennis ball and tennis racquet, only we played it as a one-on-one game with specific rules for how to pitch, what hits would be in play, how runners advanced, and so on.

Over the years… ok, fine, decades… since I last played tennis ball, I have often wished for one last summer of games in the circle. One last summer to head down to the local park to play some actual tennis… invade one of our houses for lunch… spend the afternoon in the pool that used to be in my backyard… invade another house for dinner… then head toward the circle for the last hours of daylight. Maybe some kickball. Maybe hide and seek. Eventually the streetlights would come on and we’d scramble to figure out how to arrange a sleepover before our parents began calling for us.

There are some childhood memories I don’t think I’ll ever get to revisit. (Though I wouldn’t mind an attempt at ghost in the graveyard, and suppose hide and seek is possible.) A hand painted field hosting a tennis ball match is very unlikely.

And that’s one of the twists that has made revisiting Donkey Kong Country a bit of fun. I can handle sitting in the recliner, controller in hand and game on the screen. I’ve even been frustrated by most the same levels that frustrated me years ago.

There are a few things that never get old… a few things I can still do. (Just don’t ask me where my baseball glove is.)


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com