DISCLAIMER: I didn’t warn my readers about the sadness of a recent post and have been told many needed tissues, so I’m giving you the heads up now… go get a box of tissues. This is a sad story.
I have a confession to make. I have something from my childhood that I have been struggling to this day to get over. It’s petty, but this is something that I’m trying to fix. I am doing through our first born son.
I wasn’t abused as a child. That’s not where this is going. The was no cycle of abuse that needed to come to an end with me. I’m trying to set the scene as best I can. It really is petty, but it not only affected me, but it surely brought mental anguish to a certain toy of mine; The Master of the Universe himself, He-Man… and as the title suggests, he was the loneliest man in the universe.
I need to take you back to the year 1982. In the first half of that year I turned 8-years-old and was in the third grade a primary school. Life was pretty cool back then. My days were made up of school, playing football (rugby league) in the park across the road with my friends, playing with my Star Wars figures and of course Lego. And then it happened. The morning cartoon shows before school were showing commercials for a new range of toys that every boy wanted (okay, I’m sure plenty of girls liked them too, but research tells me not-so-much which is why She-Ra was eventually released).
The original (now dubbed “classic”) Masters of the Universe (MotU) toy-line was released by Mattel in 1982 a year before the television show was released. This is now known as MotU Wave 1 which was made up of four Heroic Warriors (He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Stratos, and Teela), three Evil Warriors (Skeletor, Beast Man and Mer-Man), one neutral character (Zodac), two creatures (Battle Cat and Screeech), two vehicles (Battle Ram and Wind Raider) and one play-set, Castle Grayskull.
The boy who would go on to be the one I’ve had many of my most memorable times with, playing in-and-out of bands together for 25 years, playing in my only representative sporting team (in year 9 of high school I convinced my parents to let me play in the school rugby league team for the annual knock-out competition), and who as a grown man was my best man at both my weddings, lived only 170 metres from my family home. During our younger years we played many a game of Star Wars with the figurines, and in “real life” but neither of us were prepared for what was to come. By the end of 1982 MotU figures were at the top of both of our Christmas gift lists.
Christmas for me as a child was a simple thing. I am going to explore this more in the coming weeks – as I write this we are exactly one month from Christmas 2013 as of tomorrow – but let me just focus on 1982. On prior Christmas Days my brother and I received a modest amount of gifts. In a time when some parents were spending $50.00 plus on their kids, my brother and I were getting our gifts capped at (maybe) $20.00 give or take a few dollars. We weren’t poor, we were middle-class, but spending lavish amounts on their kids wasn’t a priority for my parents.
On Christmas Day 1982 I woke to find the one thing that I had been hoping for WAS under the tree; He-Man. But, not only him, I also received Battle Cat. How awesome was that? Well it was awesome until I realised one thing, that was all I got. There was no Skeletor. It seems pretty obvious to me now as an adult that when you buy a toy for your child, one that “serves a purpose” or has things that “should” go with it, you really need to get these things for them. Imagine buying your child a PS4 console but no games. That is how it felt for me.
See the purpose of He-Man was to be a hero, a fighter, a defender of Castle Grayskull. Without his armour, as the charismatic Prince Adam (well than cannon came as an after thought to the toy makers I believe) he was ready to lift his sword and proclaim that by the power of said sword, he HAS the power. Random, I know, but… But when you are in a universe made up of a three bedroom house on a fairly decent sized block of land and throughout that universe it’s just you, your Battle Cat and the great divide, it’s a very lonely existence.
Let me play out what may have been a typical scene in that universe;
“Okay Battle Cat, let’s go and see what trouble we have to fix in this universe. I know we had no one to deal with yesterday, or the day before that, or in the weeks before that even, but maybe, just maybe today will be the day that we will have to actually fight someone.”
Five minutes later…
“Nope, all is good in our universe…..”
Having a good guy without any bad guys to fight against is like having a fire department on Antarctica; sure they’re be something for them to do, but not the thing that they had trained to do (that is I can’t imagine many fires needing to be put out in our most southern continent).
I guess what made it worse for me was that my friend from up the road received more than I did for that Christmas. Not only did he also get He-Man, but he received Man-At-Arms to help in the fight for good plus Skeletor which meant that the fight for good was actually against someone. Someone bad even… He also received one of the vehicles as well as the play-set Castle Grayskull. With a quick trip up the road my own He-Man could fulfil his destiny, but when playing at home by myself, a thing children tend to do quite often, his purpose was nothing.
I wasn’t expecting the whole set that Christmas Day. I wasn’t expecting to even get the play-set as part of my foray into the world (or should that be universe) of MotU. But I would have forgone Battle Cat for Skeletor in a heart beat. Just as Sherlock Holmes needs Professor Moriarty, Batman needs the Joker, and a Jedi Knight needs a Sith Lord, He-Man needed a bad guy to save the universe from. But, alas, it wasn’t to be.
I’m pretty sure that my He-Man was different to other kid’s He-Man figures. I’m pretty sure that mine had more muscles than theirs did. I mean, without the need to spend those long arduous days looking after the universe, he was able to work out at the gym more often. But that was pretty much all in vain as I didn’t have a sister with Barbie dolls for him to hit on.
So fast forward to the year 2013. Our first born son has a friend who has discovered the world of Ninjago and suggests that he wants in. My wife goes and buys him one set. Just one set. And those painful memories of my childhood come flooding back. Since July this year I have spoilt him. We’ve pretty much exhausted the complete range that is currently in the stores (the Series 3 releases) and via eBay I have tracked down some of the Series 1 and 2 sets as well, plus some of the books, all of the DVDs and we’ve even bought him half-a-dozen tops and underwear.
His collection is quite extensive now. I even went out and bought a 4×4 cube bookshelf to display the sets rather than him keeping them in the plastic tub that I gave him when his collection was small. I am teaching him pride in the these toys as well. I am hoping that spoiling him with these gifts, many of which were bought just for the hell of it rather than for his birthday that has just past, will not have a negative effect on him. He’s already shown signs of positive behaviour whilst playing Ninjago, and for the most part, although his 2-year-old brother doesn’t quite get it, he shares with him and play nicely most of the time.
I was telling this story to a mother recently at our son’s orientation day. I was telling her how this has always felt like an unfulfilled and incomplete, but by no means repressed memory for me. We discussed the price of Lego as well as her son the same age also has many sets that her and her husband have bought for him. And then it dawned on me. I was able to justify those few hundred dollars that I have spent in the last five months. I can truly weigh up the cost of those over-priced sets and finally put that deflated 1982 Christmas behind me.
It’s a lot cheaper than therapy…
Now to finish this off, I thought I would present to you one of the most fantastic things that I have seen on the internet and it brings together the two toy lines I have discussed in this post; Masters of the Universe and Lego. Check this out….