Samuel J. Tanner 5 minute read

Winter Break, Todd Gurley, and Super Mario World

Incidentally, the title of this blog is superb. I've been writing these things for about three years now, and this title might be my favorite. It's so strange. I like strange.

You should probably never start a piece of writing with the word incidentally. It forces a non-sequitur. It isn't kosher. These aren't kosher times, I guess. We'll survive.

My title, like these blogs, is a reaction to my experience. And my experience, at the moment, has been Winter Break, Todd Gurley, and Super Mario World.

Winter Break as a college professor is a funny thing. When all is said and done, I'll have spent a little under a month away from teaching. Yes, I'm busy with other work. The academic writing game is a monster, friend, and one must always be plugging away. Non-sequiturs are not welcome in academic writing. Citations are. I've tried to find solitude in my basement retreat, and spend some time in the mornings writing. Meowasauras and Yara live in our basement, and have done what they could to distract me. Meowasauras has sharp claws. Yara Mewls. Distractions. Solomon and Samson have worked their distracting magic too.

"Daddy, can I play your guitar?" Solomon screamed from upstairs. Before I could answer, he ran down to my desk. "Daddy, I play your guitar?"

I let him play my guitar. Distracting? You betcha. He isn't very good. I'm not either. That's okay. Speaking of non-sequiturs.

Todd Gurley. You know, the running back for the Los Angeles Rams? That guy is a beast. My fantasy football team played the division championship two weeks ago. We won the championship last weekend. Why? Todd Gurley. I spent the previous weekends checking my phone, and willing Todd Gurley to score another touchdown. I take credit for his record-breaking performance. My fantasy coaching game is strong. The payout will help bolster my failing bank account. Christmas time in Central Pennsylvania involves paying my car insurance, buying presents, and purchasing oil for my furnace. My capitalism game is less strong than my fantasy coaching game, methinks. Sometimes I think about the money I've left on the table, after leaving my job as a veteran high school teacher to become a rookie professor. And then I think about how much the house I owned in Northeast Minneapolis - a neighborhood in Minnesota that is quickly gentrifying - is currently worth. Then I sigh heavily, go to our basement retreat, and work on essays about whiteness, education, or improvisation. We all make choices, I guess. Speaking of non-sequiturs.

Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo is, like the title of this blog, one of my favorite things. My Great-Grandmother, we called her Gammy, gave me a Super Nintendo for Christmas in 1991. I was 11, and Gammy's gift blew my mind. I remember that Christmas vividly.

Each Christmas, Gammy spoiled us rotten. Our family would gather around the big Christmas tree in Gammy's living room. Presents would spill out from beneath the tree, and we would eagerly wait to dive in. The Christmas I got my Super Nintendo, my cousins and sister opened all sorts of presents. I sat in a chair, and noticed that I wasn't getting as many gifts as the other kids. I didn't really sulk, but I noticed. Gammy approached me as we finished opening gifts.

"I think there's one more present for you, Sammy," she told me. Gammy always called me Sammy. She handed me a large box. I opened it. I had a heart attack. It was a Super Nintendo. I couldn't have been more delighted.

I spent the remainder of my Winter Break playing Super Mario World. A blizzard came through the Twin Cities in 1991. School was cancelled, break was extended, and I sat in Dad's family room, playing Super Mario World. Yoshi and I jumped on goombas. Bliss.

I mention Super Mario World in the same way I mention anything here, because of my experience. I mined that experience last week, on Christmas. I took my old video games out of storage. I found that very Super Nintendo that Gammy bought me nearly 30 years ago. It looked rough. I plugged it in. I had to blow on the game cartridge but, eventually, Super Mario World loaded. I began to play.

"Solomon play that game!!!"

Solomon quickly disturbed my wistful reminiscence. I let him play. He got bored. He wanted to play something else.

Regardless, it was pleasant to think about Gammy. I do miss her, like I miss the rest of my family. Yes, Christmas in 2017 with my family in Central Pennsylvania, despite our chaotic toddlers, is a beautiful thing. Our small family drove around on Christmas Eve. We drank hot chocolate, looked at Christmas lights, and spent the evening together. Solomon fell asleep in the backseat. The boys woke up early, opened presents, and spent the day playing with their new toys. Still, I wish Gammy could've met my boys. Their paths never crossed. Not on this plane, anyway. My grandmother too. My mother barely got to know the boys. Christmas makes me think about these people, I guess. It's a seasonal thing, right? But Christmas makes me think of other things, I guess, too. You know. Super Mario World, Todd Gurley, and Winter Break.