Time is a starving thing. With every hour, every month and year, time devours our memories. It feeds on our youth. Try as I might, holding on becomes harder with every cycle of seasons. A lost memory isn’t like a set of keys, forgotten in the other room and easily retrieved. There’s no going back for what we’ve lost. Unless that memory is tied to a totem.
Years ago I started an article, “The Things We’ve Lost,” with the words above. The story was about the many things I’ve lost over the years. Toys, board games, video games, and all those other items from my past that helped define my childhood. The treasured artifacts I tied to specific memories and emotions.
As times passes and we get older, there will always be those moments when these material possessions seem inconsequential. A moment when your old NES is an obsolete piece of junk compared to the bright and shiny Nintendo 64, so you trade it in or sell it at a yard sale. The day when you pack up all your belongings to move to a new house and your parents tell you to compile at least one box of old toys to donate. The momentary mistake of loaning out a prized comic to your less-than-trustworthy friend.
Time is a starving thing. But sometimes, if we’re very lucky, we hold on to totems that help us remember the past. That help us to feel the past. My last article on this topic was about the things I’ve lost. This article, is about the totems of my past that I’ve found.
Nintendo The Power Game 1990 Calendar
In “The Things We’ve Lost” I discussed an oft-used photo in my articles. This picture is a goldmine of memories for me because it was taken in my childhood bedroom, and I’m surrounded by many of my favorite things. By time I wrote that last article, I had already identified and purchased the two video games that are in frame (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Fester’s Quest), but one element alluded me.
If you look carefully, on my left (the right side of the photo), you can see part of what looks like a Zelda poster. I scoured the Internet, searching for any remnant, any passing mention, of this poster. I kept coming up empty until finally someone told me that it wasn’t a poster at all, but a page from a calendar. That tiny piece of missing information was enough to unlock the treasure box, and moments later I was on eBay staring at dozens of listings.
Unfortunately, the calendar generally goes for $50 and up. Say what you will about my collecting habits, but I wasn’t quite sold on blowing that much money on an old calendar I barely remembered. Still, I saved the search and checked in from time to time until I finally managed to score one for less than half the usual going rate. Finally, after many months of watching, and decades of loss, I had my calendar back. Well, not my calendar, but close enough.
Some of the other elements from the picture I never lost (The Red Rider BB Gun, the Micro Machines in their yellow cases) and still have to this day. Other elements, like the bubblegum machine, I have yet to recover. Others still, I don’t even know what they are, like the other poster on the upper left. It looks like a map of some kind, and my terrible memory wants to say it was for a theme park, but I just don’t know. And it kills me. I do have another full picture of the poster, but it’s so blurry and blown out that I can’t figure out what it is.
Maybe you can figure this mystery out for me?
The Omega Virus
Another toy I mentioned in the previous article as having been lost, The Omega Virus board game, has also since been acquired. I won’t say much about this one, mostly because it’s a ‘90s game, but also because I’ve already written a short retrospective on it that you can read here: “Remembering The Omega Virus.”
Two of the main toys that I lost track of as a kid (probably sold at yard sales or donated) were the NES and Genesis. I’ll focus on the NES since the Genesis is more a '90s thing, but both of these systems and their various games were huge parts of my childhood. When I was old enough to start getting nostalgic for years gone by, the NES was the very first thing I wanted to reclaim.
Luckily this idea occurred to me just ahead of the “retro video game market” exploding, so I was able to get pretty much everything I wanted (and then some) for pennies on the dollar at yard sales and flea markets. There were of course certain rarer games and accessories that were always a bit outside my budget, but most of the time those weren’t games I had as a kid anyway, so they fall outside the scope of “reclaiming the past.” In fact, as I sit here now, I can’t think of a single video game I had as a kid that I don’t have now, which was really all I ever wanted. (This also reminds me I really need to write some more articles about my video game collection).
There are still some toys of old I haven’t been able to reclaim due to a ridiculously high cost that I’d never pay for an old toy (I’m looking at you, Spinjas!), but I count myself lucky to have rediscovered so much of what I remember from my childhood.
What things have you reclaimed from your past that mean a lot to you?