Fifteen Treasures from the 1992 Sears Wish Book!
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SNES Super Scope! ($59.99)
Speaking of Mom, it’s time for my annual “I was an asshole kid” confession.
December 23rd, 1992: I’d already gone through my parents’ closets and found out what they were giving me for Christmas. From what I could tell, my “big gift” was a black cedar storage chest. I’d always wanted one, but in no way did I consider that a “big gift.” Bicycles and Nintendos were big gifts. Cedar chests were stocking stuffers in every way but size.
So, it’s the day before Christmas Eve, and I finally put my cards on the table. I told Mom that I saw the gift, and that while the chest was nice, it “wasn’t enough.” God damn, I was a brat. She wasn’t hurt by this, because with me, it was all par for the course.
I not-so-subtly hinted that a Super Scope (a light gun for the Super Nintendo) would be a good way to balance things out. The poor lady actually went out and bought one. Perhaps protesting the absurdity of the situation, she didn’t bother to wrap it, nor did she even wait for Christmas to give it to me. (I didn’t complain.)
Anyway, I spent Christmas Eve and the rest of the holiday week sick as a dog. Karma, probably. I was too sick to even open my presents at midnight, as was the tradition in our family. On Christmas morning, I mustered just enough energy to go downstairs and inspect my gifts.
That cedar chest? It was there. Prior to Christmas, I never thought to open the thing. Turned out, Mom had been filling it with toys and doodads for weeks, and it was a fucking bonanza of everything I loved, from action figures to comic books. Truly one of the best gifts I’d ever received. When I complained about that chest, Mom obviously thought I’d peeked inside and was bitching about its contents.
In a rare moment of humanity, I felt terrible. In fact, 1992 was the last time I can remember being a jerk about Christmas presents.
As for the Super Scope? HATED THAT THING. I used it three times, tops.
SNES Mario Paint! ($59.99)
On the brighter side of my Super Nintendo experiences was Mario Paint. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to write anything about it, because I lived and breathed that game for months.
Draw! Color! Make music! Swat gnats! Mario Paint was one of the few video games I ever felt 100% comfortable with. None of my friends were interested in it, and when I let them try mine, they just thought it was so stupid. They couldn’t believe I was so into it. Their hatred of Mario Paint helped me to understand that the kids you grow up with aren’t necessarily the best “matches” for you. How could anyone hate a game that lets you draw monsters and build songs out of little Mario heads?
Deluxe Wood Cabin! ($299.99)
Even when I was clearly too old for one, I still wanted a cabin “clubhouse” like this. All of the Wish Books had them, in many shapes and sizes.
I was big on clubhouses. Maybe it was those old Honeycomb commercials, but I never felt complete without one. Over the years, I converted everything from my brothers’ discarded cars to our own shed into clubhouses, where I hung out and did nothing of note, but was so incredibly happy doing nothing of note.
A cabin like this was my ultimate dream. It wasn’t that I wanted this specific one. I didn’t care if it was bought from a store or built from scratch, so long as it looked like a real house, and so long as it was all mine. I dreamed about taping up posters, rigging up a TV set, and hosting Pepsi-filled parties for audiences that would’ve never exceeded three people. I did similar things with my other clubhouses, but it would’ve been sooo much sweeter in an actual cabin.
Ninja Turtles “Mutations” Three-Pack! ($24.49)
More TMNT goodies! The “Mutations” figures switched from mutant to human forms, almost like Transformers. The Ninja Turtles had Mutations figures of their own (they changed from radical teens to simple pet turtles), but this three-pack, featuring Bebop, Rocksteady and Splinter, was where the real money was. We didn’t often see these characters in their pre-mutated forms. It was a great callback to the pilot episode, or at least, it would’ve been had they not changed Bebop’s skin color.
See, in the cartoons, pre-warthog Bebop was clearly African-American. For whatever reason, the “Mutatin’ Bebop” figure was presented as a white guy. I’d love to write it off as an oversight, but given that Playmates remembered Rocksteady’s rarely seen blonde hair, that doesn’t seem too likely. Still, even with the hiccup, Bebop was the best of the Mutations figures.
Police Scanners! ($119.99 – $279.99)
In the sixth grade, I had a brief but passionate affair with a scanner just like these. I paid for it with my own savings and couldn’t wait to spy on the world.
If you’re unfamiliar with how these work, so am I. I only know now what I knew then. If you were lucky, you’d hear random chatter from local police and other emergency personnel. I’m sure there was more to the scanners than that, so for more information, visit a better website.
Can’t see the attraction? Remember, this was the pre-Internet age. In some small way, my scanner connected me to the world. I couldn’t talk to it, but it could talk to me. It said a lot of things – addresses, mainly — and the voices sounded suspiciously like those from Starfox.
I could never really figure out what those cops were talking about. Maybe I had a bad reception, or maybe I was just a kid who couldn’t grasp abridged cop lingo.
It was still a blast. I’d leave the thing on in my bedroom and go about my business. Whatever came through the speaker was like an extra cool version of white noise, or one of those machines that makes ocean sounds.
A Goddamned Clarinet! ($149.99)
In the 4th grade, I started playing the clarinet. I really didn’t mean to, though.
See, out of the blue, they gathered the students in the auditorium and told us, “it’s band time.” We barely had a minute to process it before being instructed to form lines around our chosen instruments. Since the line for the drums was already enormous, I went with the clarinets.
I didn’t quite yet realize that there were gender roles at play. Only one other boy was on Team Clarinet, and he was the nerdiest guy in the whole school. All of my other friends were split between the drums, the trumpets and the saxophones. By the time I understood that the clarinet was going to be social suicide, it was too late.
For weeks, I was the laziest clarinet player ever. I never practiced, and I had absolutely no idea how to work the thing. When I finally got the hang of it, it wasn’t because of any sudden interest. We had the meanest band teacher ever – a guy who literally threw your instrument across the room he thought you weren’t practicing. I learned to play the clarinet because it beat being murdered.
Thank you, Mr. Greenberg. Over the years, my ability to play “Polly Wolly Doodle” on a clarinet has come in handy countless times.
Tic Tac Toss! ($15.99)
On some long ago Christmas, I scammed a Tic Tac Toss game from my parents, on the basis of it being the perfect way to keep my little cousin entertained during our Christmas Eve party.
I still can’t believe they fell for that, as I spent most of my youth avoiding that cousin at all costs.
The truth was, I just wanted Tic Tac Toss. As per agreement, I did set it up in my bedroom, and I did play a round or two with my cousin on Christmas Eve. Eventually, as usual, we invented some form of strife, and she spent the rest of the party banned from my bedroom. Only then did the game make its true purpose known. For the rest of the night, it drove her crazy that she couldn’t play Tic Tac Toss, and boy, did I love spiting her about it.
I even took to casually strolling around the house with one of the red beanbags in my hand, taunting her with a glory that was just out of reach. This is why you should bring your kids up as believers in Santa Claus. My parents didn’t, and I never feared the consequences of being a bastard.
Handheld Video Poker Game! ($39.99)
My father was a casino addict, and nearly all of his gifts had something to do with that.
One year, somebody got him this handheld poker game. He played it CONSTANTLY. For years, that stupid thing never seemed to be out of his hands. Even when the LCD display degraded and you could only see four of the five cards, he wouldn’t give it up.
It’s funny how the weirdest things can spark so many memories. I’m not sure if I even remembered what our old living room looked like until seeing this poker game again. I can still remember its oddball sound effects, reminiscent of argumentative raccoons.