By JAMES GROB
Ottumwa Post Columnist
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Of course, Christmas is a time of giving -- a time of love and family and sharing and charity and remembrance. A time to recall the story of the first Christmas, of God's gift to mankind. Christmas is a time to spread good cheer and happiness.
But man, the presents are cool.
Join me now, on my personal trip down memory lane as I recall some of the best Christmas presents I ever got -- most of them when I was a little kid. These are in no particular order, I am listing them off as they pop into my mind.
His name was Steve Austin, he was part man and part machine, and he could beat the living tar out of G.I. Joe. I got my Six Million Dollar Man doll when I was about seven years old, and it was a great gift, despite the fact that a few days before Christmas, my little sister accidentally spilled the beans and ruined any surprise. Based on the TV show, the Steve Austin character was a fighter pilot who had survived a crash and was rebuilt with bionic parts that gave him super-human skills. As played by actor Lee Majors, who had to be cool because he was married to Farrah Fawcet for a while, he worked for the U.S. Office of Strategic Intelligence, sometimes reluctantly, using his newfound skills -- the ability to jump over very tall fences, pick up automobiles with one arm, run 60 miles an hour and see for miles -- to defeat commies and other enemies of the state. His mortal enemy was Maskatron, and he befriended Bigfoot, but I didn't have either of those toys, so my action figure was content to smash up my sister's Barbie dream boat and beat up most of the other toys in the house.
I was six. It was plastic, it was red and it was fast. Our neighbors had a big hill, and we could slide down it and across Oak Street and into our side yard. The goal was always to get going fast enough to slide all the way to the house, and my sled was able to make it that far several times. The biggest problems were the aforementioned neighbors, who had never given us permission to slide down their hill and at times were crabby about it, and the aforementioned Oak Street, which sometimes had cars on it, with drivers who weren't looking out for kids on sleds. But what's life without some obstacles?
I was 11. They were little red blips on a tiny little screen, but in my mind, they were some of the greatest football games ever played. It kept score, it kept down and distance, and you could play by yourself or against a friend, as this game had both offense and defense. When you scored, it played a little victory song. The biggest problem with this awesome gift was the fact that it seemed like I spent millions of dollars replacing the battery, which wouldn't even carry a charge for two hours.
These guys were around a couple years before I was born, but they were still a pretty hot item when I was six and got my first Rock 'Em game. You pushed buttons to move the robots around the little boxing ring and have them slug each other, and when you punched one just right, his head would pop up. Tell me that isn't the coolest thing ever?
My sister and I each got one, to sit in while we watched TV, and they were pretty neat. Eventually, they began to leak little tiny styrofoam balls, and 40 years later, we still find an occasional little tiny styrofoam ball in my parents' basement.
I was 12 years old when this amazing device came out -- the start of the personal mobile music revolution. Again, the only complaint I ever had about my Walk Man was the fact that I had to spend a fortune on batteries.
This thing looked like it came from outer space. It was bright red and had a handle on top to carry it, and I would just walk around with it and record things, then listen to them later. This was my first step into storytelling, and my friends and I recorded some comedy routines that were pretty hilarious, for nine year old kids.
Oh my God, how cool was this? You hooked it up to your TV and the games were awesome. I was 13 when our family got an Atari. Games sold separately included Missile Command, Asteroids, Berserk, Donkey Kong and, of course, Pac-Man.
When I was about 10, my older cousin bought all the relatives little wind-up robots. They looked kind of like R2D2, only they were red and they didn't roll, they walked. I don't think they cost much more than a dollar each, but we had a blast with them, winding them up and sending them down a table or countertop or across the kitchen floor. Nothing fancy -- it was a simple rubber-band mechanism that made them go. The best part was when the cat was around. Kitty like to stalk the robots and then swat the heck out of them. Good times. Yeah, good times.
A few years back, my sister gave me my first nephew for Christmas. His name is Christian James and he's more awesome than any of the other gifts I've been talking about -- even the Six Million Dollar Man. He doesn't need batteries. He talks a lot, but most of all, he hugs. You haven't been properly hugged until you've been hugged by Christian James. Is there a better Christmas gift than that?