I’ll never forget the day that my dad brought it home. It was the first night of Hanukah, and the four of us were lighting the menorah. After a dinner of microwaves latkes, which resulted in them being soggy, and Nana’s applesauce, it was time for presents. First, we got our individual presents. My brother got some Ghostbusters action figures, including a green Slimer one. I got some books. I was really into The Babysitter’s Club. Then my dad led us downstairs into the family room.
One thing I will always remember about the house that I grew up in was the family room. My brother and I probably spent ninety percent of our waking hours in that room. When my parents had bought the house, the family room had had a wet bar in it. Behind the wet bar were mirrored shelves that were meant to keep liquor on it. Instead, my dad had stacked his collection of science-fiction and fantasy novels on the shelves. On the bar itself, was my dad’s alphabetized record collection even though we didn’t have a working record player in the house. To the right of the room was a couch that turned into a bed. Just above the bed was a very wide and flat wooden windowsill. My favorite thing to do was to sit on the couch and play with my barbie and my little pony dolls on that windowsill. Across from the sleeper sofa was a brown leather sofa. This brown leather sofa had traveled with my dad since he had been a student at Penn. Next to the sofa, on the left, was a huge cabinet that was jammed with different toys, art supplies, and books. On the right, was another bookshelf that was built into the wall, also jammed with more of my dad’s book collection. The carpet of the family room was a shaggy lime green carpet that had come with the house.
My brother and I looked at each other, we had no idea why dad had brought us down here. Dad walked to the TV and turned it on. A weird musical tune came on, and the screen was bright blue. Words in white appeared on the screen, my dad and I read them aloud together as they appeared, “The world is veiled in darkness. The wind stops, the sea is wild, and the earth begins to rot. The people wait, there only hope is a prophecy…. ‘When the world is in darkness Four Warriors will come….’ After a long journey, four young warriors arrive, each holding an ORB.”
“What is it?” asked my brother, obviously as confused as I was.
“It’s a Nintendo, we got a Nintendo,” Dad said. I think he was more excited than we were.
“Where’s Mario?” my brother asked. The only things my brother and I knew about Nintendo was based on the cartoon shows we watched. Every Saturday, one of us would wake up around five am, usually me, and we were in charge of waking the other for a show based off of the game Dragon Warriors. I would sit through religious broadcasting in the morning until the show started at seven am. After school, we would come home and watch The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, The Legend of Zelda, and Captain N: The Game Master.
“We have it,” my dad said, “This game is called Final Fantasy. My secretary Beth got it for me. She saw the sword and shield on the box and I thought I would like it.”
“I want Mario,” my brother said.
“You and Jamie can play Mario tomorrow. Do you want to watch me play?”
“No,” said my brother, and he went upstairs.
“Do you want to watch me play?”
“Sure,” I said.
My dad sat down on the couch, and I sat next to him. He pressed a few buttons on the controller and entered the new game screen. He made himself a fighter called Dad. “Do you and Randy want to be in my game?”
“I do,” I said.
“What do you want to be? You can be a fighter, a white wizard, a black wizard, a red wizard, a thief, or a blackbelt.”
“The white wizard, I think it looks the most like a girl.” Dad chose the white wizard and named it ‘Jami’ since there was a four-character text limit.
“I’ll put your brother in too since he’ll get mad if he’s not in the game. He can be a black wizard.” Dad chose the black wizard and named it ‘Rand’ for Randy. For the fourth character on the party, he chose a blackbelt and named it “BLEE” after Bruce Lee. My dad was a huge kung fu movie fan. And from there on our, Bruce Lee was forever known as ‘BLEE’ in our household.
For the next few hours, I watched my dad play the game until it was bedtime.
Final Fantasy sort of became our thing. Every night, after I did my homework, I would go downstairs and watch my dad play his game. I would build Lego robots or make up full-length Broadway musicals starring my dolls while he played, but I would be there. When my dad finished the game, he just started it over with a different team. I once did the calculations, and there were about 126 different team combinations that you could make within the game.
As gaming systems advanced, my dad would buy the new final fantasy games that came out for every system. He played them up until about Final Fantasy X, when the games because “too weird” for him. But even though there were a few others he enjoyed, particularly, Final Fantasy IX, they just didn’t hold the same magic that the original had for him, but our NES had long-stopped working.
I play my own video-games now. I’ve beaten most of the Final Fantasy games, and I’ve moved on the different games such as Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley. But now that I’m older, beating games just doesn’t have the same magic, as it did that first time, I watched my dad beat Final Fantasy from start to finish.
Several years ago, before I moved to Texas, I wanted to give my dad a going-away present. Being the huge video-game nerd, I am thanks to my dad, I had a Gameboy SP that I had bought to beat a Pokémon game. The Gameboy SP had been discontinued, and I didn’t really need it anymore. I left my dad with my Gameboy SP and the Gameboy Advance remake of Final Fantasy that I had found on eBay.
Every so often, my dad calls me and tells me about the latest in his “Final Fantasy” world, perhaps more now than before thanks to COVID. He loves to tell me all about how strong his team is, what bad guy he beat, and all the dungeons he dominated. And yes, the blackbelt is still named BLEE.
the topic for this week is hiraeth, which means nostalgia, and I can't think of anything more nostalgic than childhood