• Susan Flanagan

Longevity of Pocket Monsters | The Kids are Alright | Dec. 13, 2011


Surprise Baby is obsessed with Pokemon, toys I thought we were through with a decade ago. These cute little Japanese Pocket (Poké) Monsters (Mon) come as figures or cards. We still have a Pikachu wall hanging that Betty, the babysitter gave #3 ten years ago. About a year ago when Surprise Baby discovered Pokemon at the God-family’s house, I painted over #3’s name on Pikachu and wrote in the Surprise Baby’s.


But I, being the neat freak I am, had given away all our Pokemon toys several years ago. Hundreds of cards and dozens of figures moved to Kingston, ON for lucky young Gavin. His parents, not so lucky. Besides the Pikachu name plate, the only Pokemon presence left in the house were Gameboy Games that Santa brought in the last millennium. Amazingly these games can still keep the offspring occupied for any road trip beyond the overpass.


Fifteen years ago, most parents I knew hated Pokemon. Although I never looked forward to watching Pokemon movies (I used to pay my nephew to go into the cinema with the children and I’d stay outside and read a book), the idea of battling pocket monsters never bothered me. Pokemon taught my first four children about evolution. Not in the monkey sense but in the sense that Bulbasaur evolves into Ivysaur. Or Geodude evolves into Graveler who evolves into Golem. It also taught them great memory skills – either that or it filled their brains to overflowing with entirely useless pokemen vital statistics.


My children had fun discovering that Ekans is Snake backwards and that Ekans evolves into Arbok, which is Kobra backwards. A quick read through Scholastic’s Ultimate Pokemon Handbook explains that Abra, who can teleport, changes into Kadabra whose alpha waves can ruin precision devices and who changes into Alakazam, who can remember everything it has ever done. Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan are fighting Pokemon named after Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Kangaskhan looks like Genghis Khan if he had been a kangaroo. Playing Pokemon is like watching a Pixar movie with all the double entendres. And the story line about a little Japanese kid waking up to find a Pokemon in his room is not half bad.


So on a recent Friday when a local giant toy store announced a half-price sale on Pokemon figures, I figured I should rejoice in the fact that Surprise Baby isn`t yet interested in Halo: Black Ops. So in the name of stocking stuffers, I scurried out Kenmount Road in the pre-happy-hour traffic so proud I was getting a jump start on Christmas shopping. I battled my way through the crowds, all there in response to the flyer that started that day, to an entire aisle of Pokemon. Most of them I didn`t recognize as they were from the new Black and White series which I would have called Longevity if I were marketing for Nintendo. The familiar Pikachu and Onix were present but down at ankle level.


The rest of the roughly 6’ x 15’ shelf space was taken up with flashy new Pokemon who screamed “take me home”. I picked out three packs thinking Yippee-do, they’re all 50 per cent off. Then I beat my way to the checkout, only to find out that, although the store’s flyer did indeed start that Friday, the Pokemon sale was only good on Saturday and Sunday. Always read the small print, I say. There was no way I was coming back out here on the weekend. There is a God however because they had scratch and win tickets at the cash and I got $25 off to appease me.


I left the store wondering if it was all worth it. If Pokemon were on Surprise Baby’s Christmas list, then yes, the trip was justified. But then I thought Surprise Baby wouldn’t have a Christmas list if I didn’t teach him to have one. Last year Surprise Baby’s very favourite surprise on Christmas morning was a second-hand wooden train passed down from his Auntie Pat.


So do we absolutely have to make sure each child gets mountains of loot if it means purchasing useless things that the child probably won’t look at? I know, I know. I’m sounding Grinchy. But I have to remind myself that less is more.


I do go shopping but it is not one of my favourite pastimes. I have no qualms about putting in orders with friends and relatives who I think may be able to pick up something easier than me. When I do hit a store, I have a list in hand and go straight to buy those things. Then I get the heck out of there.


I do take advantage of sales such as Downtown Tax Free (DTF) days. On the last DTF day I visited Maverick, one of my favorite stores and although it was as a Toronto golf course on the first day of the playoffs, I passed my list to Andrew who produced what I needed so quickly that I only had time for two impulse purchases.


DTF day is NOT the time to go twacking. All window shopping should be done well in advance and then on the TF day, you move as quickly as a Jehovah’s Witness getting welcomed in for tea and a chat.


Someone asked me recently what my favourite Christmas gift has been. They were flabbergasted when I said it was when my husband took all our kitchen knives and had Kevin at The Modern Shoe Hospital sharpen them.


I think she was expecting me to say something more like diamond earrings or the 14-pound milk chocolate Santa from the Newfoundland Chocolate Company.


Not that I wouldn’t mind 14 pounds of milk chocolate, but I know that the magic of Christmas lies more in what we do than what we get. Like on the Sunday before the big day when our van has a fir tree strapped to the roof and is riding so low that it touches the pavement because it`s laden down with two adults, four teenagers, a surprise baby, snowshoes, an axe and a saw. That`s what Christmas is all about.


Susan Flanagan is a writer who is secretly hoping she may get her scissors sharpened this Christmas.

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