Last year I talked about how my parents made a mix-up about which console I wanted for Christmas one year. This year I want to talk about one of the most memorable Christmas mornings I have ever had in my entire life. However, instead of video games, this one involves something I don’t normally talk about here, pinball.
Quick little intro, I love pinball. I’m not very good at it but I’ve always loved it. Just seeing different machines for different franchises lined up at the arcade makes me want to play and the sheer thrill I get when I finally earn multi-ball or get this huge score brings a smile to my face. Of course I played 3D Space Pinball on my old Windows and my brother and I would go back and forth and take turns playing it, but I thought owning a real pinball machine in my own home was a far-fetched dream. A dream I realized that would become possible while on a shopping trip with my mom to our local Kmart one day. This was back when I was elementary school (early 2000’s) and I can’t remember when exactly it was, it was just before Thanksgiving and right after my birthday when my Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I had no idea until I saw it. It was a Monopoly pinball machine. Now to be fair, it wasn’t a full blown machine made by Stern, but a plastic one made by Hasbro which was selling for about $100 or less. It had the makings of a pinball machine, bumpers, flippers, a spot where you can rack up the points at the top that was hard to get to, and lights and sounds. Best part it was small enough to fit in the house and I thought it was the coolest thing. The second I saw it I lit up and told my mom, “That, I would like that for Christmas.”
So the month continued and finally it was Christmas Eve. My younger brother and I had this tradition that right after dinner we would just look at the presents under the tree before we went to bed or did some other family activity. We weren’t trying to peek, and we weren’t trying to guess what was IN the presents either, we just sat, talked, and admired the lights and colors of the tree and presents. Then a thought came across my mind so I turn to my brother and ask him, “You know what would be REALLY cool?” “What?” “If Santa were to not only give me my pinball machine, but he put it together too! That way when we wake up in the morning we wouldn’t have to put it together ourselves.” My brother started laughing and said, “Santa isn’t going to put your pinball machine together!” “Why not?” I asked. “Think about it. He has to deliver presents to every kid in the world! He doesn’t have time to hang out and put your present together. He just drops the presents, eats the cookies and leaves.” “OK well I know he’s busy, I’m just saying it would be cool if he did,” I answered back. My brother shook his head. “Nah, if you do get the pinball machine, we’ll have to put it together ourselves,” he said as he went to get his PJ’s on. Now to be honest this was very sound logic for a 8/9 year old and even I knew it was a long shot. Santa had so many kids to visit on Christmas that there was no way he could hang out and put together one kid’s present. I think I heard my parents chuckle as I went to my room to get ready for bed.
As per norm back then it would be my brother who would wake me up on Christmas morning, normally before or just as the sun started rising and I would jump out of bed so we could turn on the Christmas tree lights. On our way down the hall to turn the tree lights on is where I noticed something in the darkness. I saw some more presents sure but I saw something else that I couldn’t make out that definitely wasn’t there the night before. Lo and behold to my astonishment and my brother’s open jaw was my pinball machine, completely assembled, ready to be plugged in with a bow and a note attached to it. The note was from Santa saying that the pinball machine was from my parents but he stayed over a bit to help them put it together, I was thrilled and my brother just stood there in shock. He couldn’t believe what he saw and I was just too happy to get the biggest item on my Christmas list.
I will always remember that Christmas morning because even I was sure that my new toy wouldn’t be assembled and I would have to do it myself and I didn’t have the best of luck when it came to assembling items like that. Just seeing it by the Christmas tree all ready to go was surprise enough for me. The best part is that when my aunt and grandmother (both on my Dad’s side) came over for Christmas dinner my pinball machine was the biggest hit of the day. Even before they arrived we plugged it in the other room and for a good chunk of the day we all took turns playing it. The machine came with a 2 player mode and before we knew it we started having little tournaments with it. I remember playing the game Operation with my family and when we were done it was my aunt who said, “Let’s play with Ben’s new pinball machine, I want to play against your dad and beat him this time.”
I would have that pinball machine for the better part of 10 years. There were times it was used plenty, and times where it gathered dust, and eventually I decided to get rid of it. Even though it was a very simple machine and we think one of the features didn’t work the way it was supposed to, the memories of that Christmas morning will stay with me for the rest of my life.