Christmas Gifts: Why This Book Is the Best Gift I’ve Received in 21

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I think I have it!

My dad has been dreaming of a “White Christmas” for about 20 years now. And I can understand why. Besides the aforementioned song which plays on his classic Christmas Spotify playlist every year, every Christmas movie we watch during the holiday season paints a picture of snow as common as neatly wrapped Christmas presents under the tree or marriage proposals from hunky canadian actors you’ve never heard of before. But those are the breaks when you live in California, like my parents do. There are no white Christmases in their town, only rainy Christmases with fleeting moments of clear blue skies. What’s ironic, in Alanis Morissette fashion, is that if my parents had decided to make the trip to where I live for the holidays, we would all have had a white Christmas with the winter storm that just hit my town now.

But I can understand his desire. I crave the quaint White Christmases we’ve been singing about since the 1940s. I can’t remember the last time it snowed on the big day, but really, I don’t remember Christmases past at all or even the generally passed. Most of the knowledge I have in my head from my youth is just the embarrassing things my brain can use against me whenever my self-esteem registers a notch above “non-existent”. I’m sure I had some great Christmas mornings growing up, but the only one I remember was the year my brother and I got our own video game consoles and televisions for our bedrooms, which means we never had to communicate with each other again. It was a great Christmas, but this year I got a beautiful reminder of another piece of my past that had already been lost in the miasma of my mind.

This year has been a pretty good year for me, in terms of gifts. I really got into photography in the last year, so the big gift waiting for me under the tree was a new Fujifilm lens for my X-T200. With a 230mm zoom, I should really be able to step up my wildlife and wildlife photography this year. Beyond the lens, I have a nice new sweater, some Friends wine glasses and socks, a shaved ice machine and a nice woolen Gatsby cap. I also got this $5 puzzle book from Kohl’s, which meant a lot to my mom as she tried to explain to me why she bought it.

As I was unboxing the book, she told me she had to buy it because it reminded her of that game we used to play years ago when I was a kid. She said it was this “teacher’s game”. By now you probably already know what game she’s talking about. But me, the extremely ignorant and forgetful person that I am, I completely blanked out. She continued, repeating “the teacher’s game, that teacher’s game” to no avail. I started to wonder, “What teacher game did I play when I was little?” My mind immediately went to Super Solvers: Midnight Rescue. But I only played it at school because we didn’t have a PC at home when I was in elementary school.

After about two minutes of me sitting there like a dummy, my mom gave up trying to remind me with a devastating, “I guess that meant more to me than it did to you.” It’s such a mom thing to say, but with those words, I knew I had to remember. I wouldn’t open another fucking present until I could remember that moment in our shared history that she was talking about. I remembered most of our other game memories, Kirby’s Avalanche for Mario Kart Wiiso surely this knowledge must have been hidden somewhere in my mind.

So I continued. I asked her what class I was in when I played this, to which she replied, “You were already out of college. You know that teacher game where you save those people? Her memory of what you’re actually doing in that game may be spotty, but the moment she said “out of college,” I knew what exact game she was talking about. Those three little words broke the dam in my mind and the memories started to come back. I remember walking two miles to the Kmart to buy the game, installing my Nintendo DSi and playing it during the week. I remember my mom asking me what I was playing, telling her what the game was about, and seeing real excitement in her eyes when I told her everything. I remember coming home from work and catching my mom working on her own part of the game on my DSi and the long discussions we had about the game and how we helped each other solve its puzzles.

The game in question is, of course, Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I love this game since I heard about it in the pages of Nintendo power and I made it a point to choose it as soon as I had the money. My mind is filled with memories of playing through the all layton seriesbut until yesterday, I completely forgot that I had once shared those memories with someone else, someone I care about dearly and who still didn’t understand why I spent so much time with a controller by hand. Professor Layton was not only a crucial game for me, but for my mother as well as it was one of the few games she could get into to understand why I love video games so much. Without The curious villageshe might still view gambling as something I should have moved past by now.

Unfortunately, that would be the only layton game we would bond over. By the time Devil box was released in North America, I had left my parents’ house and brought my DSi with me. She never bothered to take one, so from then on the only time we would log on games would be during rounds of Sports Wii and Mario Kart Wii. Today, she no longer plays at all, spending her free time looking for recipes on Pinterest. My dad is now the player of both if you can call playing slots apps on a galaxy tab as a player.

The Fujifilm lens is great, the Gatsby hat is cool and the Friends the wine glasses are pretty Caucasian, but the best gift I’ve had this year is a keepsake, a beautiful memento from my past that had been lost until my mom came across a $5 puzzle book during a shopping spree at Kohl’s. No piece of plastic or glass will bring me as much happiness as this.

I just can’t share that fact with my parents because I still love buying all those expensive things so much.

CJ Andriessen

Exactly what the internet needs: yet another white man writing about video games.

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