This made me nervous. Setting aside the fact that it would be an expensive gift (100 Canadian dollars), I knew that he still wasn't the biggest fan of me spending so much time on video games. Granted, there was the fact of "oh-my-god-The-Legend-of-Zelda-Ocarina-of-Tiiiiiiime," but I somehow doubted he'd see that side of things. Still, I had little choice. The next time my sister and I crossed the border for our days spent with him, I wasted no time in asking for the game. "Hey Dad?" I asked, raising my voice so I could be heard over the radio "What's up, Stew?" "The new Zelda game's coming out and I was wondering if you could get it for me for Christmas." He seemed to mull it over for a moment. "Yeah, I guess." I explained how he'd need to pre-order it ahead of time. "Makes sense," he replied, with a nod. "This will have to be your only present, though." I assured him that wouldn't be a problem. "It's just..." I stammered. "What?" he sighed. "Can you get me the collector's edition?"
That weekend, he took me and my sister out and, after running some errands, we stopped at the local game store (Game-Tek in Cornwall, Ontario) and had me tell the cashier what I wanted. Nodding through my description, the clerk explained to my Dad what it was and how much it would cost. My Dad asked him what the difference was between the regular game and the collector's edition. "The cartridge is gold colored." For a moment, I could see the wheels turning in my father's head and was sure he would tell me that I'd have to settle for the regular game. Pushing out a final sigh, he told the man that was fine and forked over a wad of cash that, in my memory's eye, looked enormous. Taking our receipt we left and made our way home.
The months that followed were probably the most agonizing experience of waiting that I've ever gone through. The hours, minutes, and seconds ticked by at a perpetual half throttle and everything seemed geared toward making the wait seem longer. The magazine previews that had been my sustenance up until then, started to feel like taunts from people who had the good fortune to play the game early. And when commercials started airing? It's a strange feeling wanting to throw something at the TV while also not being able to peel your eyes from it. The worst of it though came as Christmas neared. My sister and I arrived at his apartment one morning and there it was, wrapped and sitting beneath the tree. I almost started drooling when I saw it. Following my gaze, my Dad clapped me on the shoulder. "Almost there, son."
When Christmas morning arrived, I could barely contain myself. I raced down the stairs and practically snatched the game out of my Dad's grip when he handed it to me. For an instant, time seemed to slow. My fingers clawed at its wrapping, tearing through the paper like some predator shredding the hide of a long-pursued prey. The paper off, I peeled off the shrink wrap and then (carefully) opened the shining cardboard of the collector's edition's box. Reaching inside I wrapped my fingers around the hard plastic of the game's cartridge and pulled its golden form loose. It was mine and it was in my hands.
It might sound a bit silly, but I'll never forget the euphoria of that moment. I don't think there was another singular moment in my childhood where I was this intensely happy. What's always stuck out to me though, looking back, was my Dad's response to it. I remember glancing up from the game and seeing not even a single note of the disapproval I was expecting from him. There was no frown or look of disappointment. The only expression on his face was a warm smile as he watched the spectacle of my bliss.
I still have my copy of Ocarina of Time today. It's not necessary anymore, of course. Time has provided far better ways to play the game than dusting off my N64. At this point though, the game isn't really what I care about anymore. What I treasure is the memory attached to it and the feelings that come back to life when I hold it in my hands. My Dad might not have liked that I loved games as much as I did, but in that moment it didn't matter. It was enough for him just to know that he had made me happy.
(The game was amazing, by the way. Well worth the wait.)