Grandma's Holiday Fatigue
The suburbs are teeming with WalMart, Target, BestBuy, Circuit City, EB, Gamestop, RadioShack, all wanting a slice of business from the competitor next door. In the end, no one wins; the sales increase for the fourth quarter is a guarantee unless the lot burns to the ground. The bonuses for retail folks or high commission checks were assured when the companies began posting notices that extra help would be needed last October. Packages are wrapped quickly and smartly; credit cards invoke involuntary chuckles to relax ourselves after every swipe. So much money exchanges hands that every bit of charity is dismissed as just another 'impulse buy.'
Grandma has never been shy of repeating the stories of holidays back in the day. "We always got what we needed! If I needed a coat that year, that's what I got- and I was damn happy to get it too! You look at these kids now; how long did those GameBoy SP's last before I find them in the van or under their beds with the backs taken off? Or I'll walk in their bedrooms and they'll leave controllers just lying on the floor. They don't respect what they're given." This immediately brought back memories of the Sega GameGear I had received as a birthday present sometime around the 6th Grade. I still don't remember what happened to it.
Every year, members of our family ask Grandma what she would like for the holidays, and every year she responds the same way. "I don't want ANYTHING." The means to get her what she wants, rather than simply what she 'needs' is there, but the decades of conditioning on low budgets and high modesty hasn't left her greedy. She'll leave hints around, such as an EGM or GameInformer turned to the page of some well reviewed game she's anticipating. Sometimes she'll give us the obligatory "...you know that new system from Microsoft- wazzitcalled... the Ex-Box, that looks cool as hell." This, you see, is somewhat deceptive. She knows the name. Shit, she knows what sort of processor is inside, whether or not it has component or HD Video capabilities, and the button layout on the controller. This is Grandma's way of being honest with folks without explicitly asking for something.
This year, however, there is a whole new element that screws with her traditional patterns of games acquisition: You. In the days following Halloween, folks began to discreetly ask for Grandma's address to send a card and some old Playstation One game they thought she'd enjoy for the holidays. The e-mails, however, went right into my Yahoo inbox, to which Grandma has access. It's where we get all our e-mail for OGHC, so I gave her the password. Grandma read a few of them, marked them as unread, and let me think I had stumbled across new stuff to see how I would react.
Would I ask her permission or would I just give out our address so strangers can send copies of Parasite Eve? Would I delete them in fear of actual, rather than digital, hate-mail? I noticed her hovering around the computer when I checked e-mail and stats a bit closer than usual.
I know my Grandma, I knew what she was doing. So I said nothing, getting her to sweat the question a bit. Finally, one day while driving to god knows where, she said "You know, people want to send games and gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah... what did you tell them?"
"Ah, so you read those..."
"Well, yeah! So what did you say?"
"Nothing yet, I wanted to see what you thought about it."
"I'll tell you, I thought about it and it would be better if they gave to some single mother that doesn't have anything, or if they bought some homeless guy a meal then spend shipping costs to give ME a game I've probably already played."
"Does that sound too corny? I mean, that's what I've been thinking though."
"No, that's fine. No address giving then."
"Well, not unless it's a company or something, then give it out all you want."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, if Sony fucking e-mails you and says they have a copy of the new Ratchet and Clank and they need our address, that's cool. If it's a reader than has to go out and buy something for me, I'd just rather not do that to someone."
So that's her answer, I suppose. In the meantime, we will travel some more into the electric ether of shopping malls, people watch at the food court, bullshit with the folks at Gamestop, and do what we do every year: enjoy the season.
Also, today is the day we officially recognize Veterans for their courage and selflessness, (as though one day is going to cover it), so if you're here in The States, don't use the day to plug away a few more levels of Call of Duty; (well, you can, but I mean otherwise...) seek out a Veteran, and give a sincere thank you. No matter what your politics, these folks deserve it.