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May 8, 2011 / jwaxo

Pokémon Red (Mother’s Day)

Things that are close are more pixelated! Not that you can tell in my drawing style.

It’s really kind of funny how these blog posts kind of meld into each other. I mean, last week I mentioned how Mount Moon makes me think of Mother’s Day, and now, look at the calendar! Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day.

The phrase carries a sort of weight with it in our family. Not because every Mother’s Day something horrific happens, no. But because, if you say it without context, you aren’t talking about the holiday, but about a very specific Mother’s Day.

It was the year that we forgot Mother’s Day.

Not all of “us” forgot it, of course. My dad probably remembered. My mom, of course, remembered. Heck, in the week leading up to Mother’s Day, our schools helped us remember. I even had a bag of stupid little crafts that my fifth grade class had made.

It’s just, you know, my two siblings and I managed to all forget on that one morning.

I’m not sure when it came out that we had all forgotten. It wasn’t right away. I remember, that Sunday morning, having my mom give me the Sunday comics, as she often did, and I happily read them while chowing down my cereal, probably glazing right over any of the Mother’s Day jokes. The priest’s homily at church possibly had something to do with the date (as they often do), but I sure don’t remember that. All I really remember is that we were all in the minivan, driving to the high school that my brother would attend the next year, all of us ready to see a special Mother’s Day production of Bye Bye, Birdie. We were sitting, going to the play, when the truth came out: we had all forgotten.

Of course, I could hardly be blamed. Pokémon Red was freshly placed in my GameBoy.

There could have been a hurricane in there.

Really, I was almost a year behind the Pokémon craze, but it didn’t hit my school until December or so. I still remember my first encounter with the very concept of Pokémon: I was sitting in class, and there were a bunch of kids clustered around a little instruction manual, arguing over which starter was the best to go with. I had no idea, but it was pretty clear that the green one looked the doofiest.

Before I knew it, the little monsters were everywhere. The weird kid was drawing them on his notebook, the cool rich kids were hooking up their GameBoys in the playground, and discussions were running rampant everywhere. Who was the best starter? Where can you catch a Pikachu? When should you evolve things?

I had no idea what was going on or what I was in for, but I figured it looked interesting. As was usually the case, I whipped out some of my saved up money and found that Walmart didn’t have the blue version, but they did have red.

And, as I often am in these posts, I was blown away.

First of all, let’s look at the new things that Pokémon introduced American kids to, assuming they played about the same games I did when growing up:

  • Turn-based combat, a concept previously rejected by my brother and I beforehand
  • A leveling system, and one that was quite robust, too: do you train your Pokémon evenly, or do you level up the strong ones?
  • Ridiculously deep strategy, if you care to think about it too much
  • All of the trappings of the typical Japanese role-playing game: hitpoints, ability points, XP, movesets, random encounters, status effects, and different potions to fix everything ever
  • The ability to trade and collect and fight with your friends like you never could before

And man, if that doofy green one didn’t rock the first couple gym leaders.

I’m still not clear on why the Pokémon series swept the world with such fervor, but it was so fun and endearing that the series continues on today, and those of us that grew up with it still snatch up the latest version with no embarrassment. And I’ll be darned if I didn’t get caught up in it, as well. When I eventually learned HTML, during the summer of sixth grade, the first website that I made was full of .gifs and sound bytes from the cartoon.

And, really, Mount Moon is one of the lamest, most difficult parts of the game. It’s a huge long cave, full of hikers and scientists that want to battle you, you get attacked by a Zubat every three steps… of course I was distracted! It only makes sense!

Still not a good excuse, I suppose. Mom was more than a little upset. As she pointed out, it made sense to be annoyed about it. After all, it’s a holiday that we all knew about and all celebrated every year, and had even planned things for, but we managed to forget that it was supposed to be special for her.

It was easy for me to forget. Again: Pokémon Red. Really. Should say enough.

We eventually managed to cheer her up with sickeningly sweet apologies. While mom sulked, I gathered up my stupid fifth grade crafts, my sister wrote “We Love Our Mom!” on the back fence with the hose, and my brother crafted the coup de grace: a gigantic key fob, consisting of a piece of wood shaped like a heart with “WE LOVE YOU” burned into it. The thing is huge, by the way, and my dad still uses it to keep his bike lock key.

Of course, these sad attempts all worked perfectly, and we all lived on to be happy, wonderful people.

Just, you know. We won’t forget.

Never. Again.

So happy Mother’s Day!

Addendum: my mom would like me to add that we also made her a very heartfelt peanut butter and marshmallow-creme sandwich, just going to show that these things have silly impact. Seriously, a sandwich. We are the worst kids at making things up to their mom ever.

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