I remembered that Toys 'R' Us had a program where you can exchange old games for store credit. This was my chance! I ran down to my mom and explained what I wanted to do, and she said it was fine with her. I was giddy. Hundreds of old NES games, at a few bucks of credit apiece? I was going to have it all!
At least, I thought so.
The box was half empty and I had racked up a total of $150 so far. Into the entrance of the store walked a man, a brown trench coat dangling around his ankles. He noticed what we were doing and wandered over to us.
Apparently, he wanted to buy the games for actual cash. My sister, the savvy big city girl she had become, was eager to have an actual monetary transaction occur. I was confused. Why was she talking to this man?
He reached into the box, looking at the wondrous toys before him. His eyes lit up as he went through them, each one bringing more and more joy to his face. I just thought he looked creepy.
"Well, I don't have a problem with it," said the manager to my sister, who had been called over. "You just can't do it in the store, that's all."
"What about the parking lot?" she responded.
"That would be fine. Just no outside money transactions inside the store."
As they bickered, I saw him pick up something I didn't even know was in there: the original NES game - Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt.
What was I doing here? How could I have been throwing away the past like this? Was I really going to let her give my formerly prized possessions to some weird guy in a trench coat in the parking lot?
I tapped her on the shoulder.
"I've changed my mind."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"I don't want to sell these anymore. Let's go."
"No arguments, let's just go."
She could tell I was serious, and possibly a little upset at this recent turn of events. So, we quickly got the receipt for the store credit from the girl, I pulled the games out of trench coat man's hands and exited the store, quickly rushing to the car to go home.
There was a sudden change of heart in there, but really, wasn't I just shoveling out the old for the new? Once upon a time, these were the top tier of home entertainment. Doc Wiley and Mega Man, Mario and Luigi, those weird dinosaur things from Bubble Bobble, these were the hit-making characters of the day, all in glorious pixilated 8-bit resolution.
Now, of course, Mega Man is hardly the star he was, now known more for an anime series than his games. Mario and Luigi have their own games, and the most recent ones don't even reflect that for which they were best known. And Bubble Bobble? Ha!
In our society, it's all about the new and exciting, the shiny and freshly wrapped, the ones with the multi-million dollar marketing campaign attached to them. And I suppose that's just how things go.
But we must be careful, for in our attempt to seek out the latest and greatest, we may sacrifice that which made us who we are, and lose a piece of ourselves forever. Otherwise, we may all end up as old men, looking through cardboard boxes, wondering what happened to our childhood.
Tom Rhodes is a writer and filmmaker currently living in Ohio. He can be reached through [email protected]