And Mom Played Pac-Man: PaperGirl Gold, c. 2006.

posted in: Day In The Life 7
This is what we call "the good old days." Image: Wikipedia.
This is what we call “the good old days.” Image: Wikipedia.


My friends Mark and Netta sent me their box of Christmas goodies this year as they do every year. The pecans! The fudge! The humanity! Mark and Netta, you have some good mail coming your way as a token of my appreciation, though I should turn you over to the police because that fudge should be illegal and those fresh Florida pecans are criminal. You should be in jail for what you’ve done, but don’t worry: I’ll make sure you get out before December next year so you can send more.

Mark and Netta, you’re my mind tonight not just because I have pecan dust on my front but because you are some of my most-cherished, loyal-est readers, with me from the start, almost exactly ten years ago (!) when I began writing this blog. For those looking for the entries from 2006, for now, I’m afraid you’re out of luck.* When I switched servers at one point, all the old stuff went away — except that I have everything in hard copy from 2006-2012, hurray! It’s all in a big, red binder.

Tonight I pulled the binder out to see what was going on 10 years ago on PaperGirl — and I hit pure gold.

This is because when Liberty was here to visit, I thought very deeply about the cell phone thing with the kids these days. The girl is on her phone a lot — and I don’t even think she uses it as much as a lot of kids (or adults, for that matter) use theirs. I really struggled with the whole thing, though. I really, really hate it when people have headphones in while they’re with other people. What is that about? And I despair that for so many people, when there is the slightest lull in a conversation, this is a cue to pull out a device and start flicking through whatever. Can you just be for two seconds? Can you wait?

But I use my phone. Not as much as many 12-year-olds, but way more than some people. I was just on the train for 35 minutes coming from the north side of the city; you better believe I was listening to music and scrolling through Instagram. But I was alone, on a commute. That’s okay, right? Or should I just be bored and let my mind wander because that’s a good thing to do? It’s complicated.

In light of all this, my entry for December 27th, 2006 is of particular interest.** Mom, I’m sorry, but I gotta throw you and this adorable story under the bus. Enjoy!

My mother told us all a secret tonight. 

We were in the middle of a particularly hot round of Apples To Apples with family friends, talking about games of all kinds: board games, card games, electronic games, mind games, dating games, etc. Pac-Man was mentioned as a favorite early video game. 

“Remember that Pac-Man game you all got for Christmas back on the farm?” Mom said, looking mischievous. Biccy and I nodded, wistful.

The game she was talking about was a self-contained, yellow plastic bubble device shaped like a Pac-Man. There was a small screen and a little console below that with up, down, and sideways buttons. There was a button and an on/off button and that was about it. The game was Pac-Man. It was only Pac-Man. The ghosts gave chase, the Power Pellets got chomped, the electronic beeps sounded out the Pac-Man theme over and over and over again. Nothing was worse than watching the screen slowly fade, signaling the death of the four C-batteries required to run the thing, which I think was produced by Texas Instruments. Everything electronic in the 1980s was produced by Texas Instruments. 

Mom went on: “I played that thing for weeks before I gave it to you. I would stay up at night for hours, secretly mastering Pac-Man.” 

My sister and I looked at our mom like she was some weirdo woman who had just walked in off the street to play Apples To Apples with us and eat our Royal Dansk cookies. 

“And you know,” my mom said, “several of my friends revealed to me that they did it, too. Marty and Jan gave that Pac-Man game to their kids only after getting sick of it themselves. Hours and hours they said they played, after the kids went to bed.” 

Mom popped a Hershey’s Kiss into her mouth with a satisfied smile. She and her friends had gotten away with something. 

I’m still shocked. Mom was so anti-videogame! She still is. She resented my grandpa for years after he surreptitiously purchased a Nintendo for us, and here it comes out that she was fiending for power pellets long before we were. 

And then she went and waxed everyone at Apples To Apples. My mother, she is complex.

*I plan to make these available. Stay tuned.
**I’m a better writer today than I was 10 years ago. I’ve got a long way to go, but guess what? It appears that if you do something a lot over the course of 10 years, you get better at it.