1988, two kids on Welfare and the unthinkable…a new NES
By Jonathan Lovelace
To say that we were poor when I was a child was an understatement. We went years without a phone, often lived off food stamps/church hand-outs and almost every spring, when the average temp was over 50…we lost our power until my parents could pay the power company to turn it back on. The power outages translated to weeks of candlelight and using our charcoal grill for everything from cooking dinner to heating bath water at night. We were really that poor.
As children my sister and I never had two dimes to rub together…we never had the newest toys, we never had anything even remotely close to “high tech”. Just look at it this way, my parents didn’t get their first VCR until 1996.
Christmas was normally an exercise in frustration but we never showed it, our parents tried hard to make a good experience for us and we would never spoil it by acting ungrateful. Quite often we’d get a small toy (a GI Joe for me, a Barbie for my sister) and something needed like a pair of pants. More often than not, that was it.
Christmas of 1988 came and it wasn’t unlike any other. Most of my friends had the NES at that point and to me, it was like lusting after a Ferrari. If I remember correctly the Action Set was close to two month’s rent for us. It remained a dream that was unattainable for a kid in 5th grade with no job and living on Welfare.
That year we had the atypical Christmas morning with the stocking filled with a random candy and the small gifts. The entire time I was soured by the thought of my buddy getting his NES for Christmas a week early and to be honest with you, it kind of ruined my morning. The thought of him sitting at home playing Mario Bros and Metroid made my blood boil…he was one of those kids that got everything he ever wanted and it often made me sick just thinking about it.
After the presents, we ate breakfast (like always) and afterwards my father announced that they had “One more present for the both of us”…
We were instructed to sit on the couch and close our eyes. This was not a normal Christmas affair so we were excited to put it mildly. My dad walked off and there was a rustle in the background, after a few seconds my father stepped back into the room.
“Ok kids…you can look.”
I gazed and what I saw simply could not be explained, there our father stood with a NES Action Set. If it were possible for a perfectly normal 11 year old to have a heart attack…I would have keeled over dead right then an there.
Jonathan, the poor kid in town actually had the “one” toy everyone wanted. Like waking up to a Ferrari Enzo in the garage, we had the unattainable. A NES…
Words cannot explain that feeling…possibly like winning the lottery but on a kid’s level. I was in shock.
That day, I played Super Mario Bros until my fingers bled (not really but you know the feeling) and to this day, Christmas of ’88 has been the best one of my life. On top of that, I am still a Nintendo nut.
As for the amazing gift, it turned out a well off family at our church had caught wind of our Christmas wish somehow and decided to buy it for us…that is quite possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, a clean act of selfless generosity. If they only would have known the obsession they had started in my life with that simple gift…
To this day, this photo sits right next to my computer to remind me of not only that Christmas, but to keep me from forgetting exactly where I’ve came from and what effect even the most simple act of generosity can have in changing someone's life.