Christmas Memory, Helen Ashcroft: Surprise Switches

I originally tried to dredge up a memory of Christmases long past for this article. I thought about playing Sonic The Hedgehog with my brothers, and of introducing everyone we know to Wii Sports like Features Editor Ben Sledge – which I was surprisingly good at for someone who was six months pregnant at the time. But no memory lives up to 2020, a bad year made good.

Since I got married we’ve always been a Nintendo household. Mario, Luigi, the Rabbids, and Kirby are all to be found in our home, and you’ll never catch my three kids confusing Link with Zelda. While we also have other consoles, we’ve never been without the latest Nintendo offering.

These days the children are teens – yes, I am that old – but the Nintendo love remains. We’ve never grown out of catching Pokemon, collecting Pikmin, and of course, absolutely pummelling each other in Smash Bros., and we never will. We’re a gaming household through and through and in 2020, we leveled up.

Let’s face it, no one had a good year in 2020 – except maybe Jeff Bezos who can now swim in his billions of dollars like Scrooge McDuck. Everything for the rest of us was just different levels of utter shit. We got through the months of being trapped in the house by playing various Nintendo games. We had arguments about Animal Crossing islands, arguments about Mario Kart races, and most of all, arguments over whose turn it was on the Switch. The more we played, the more the kids began to crave having a Switch of their own.

I didn’t blame them. Sharing sucks after a while, especially when you have to share with someone you have to see every single day, all the damn time. Then there are the save game restrictions, as well as things like not being able to create your own Animal Crossing Island because your mum was reviewing the game and is now the overlord of Ashcroft Island, whether you like it or not.

As a result, the kids started to save for their own Switch Lites. They were doing pretty well, but those things are expensive and none of them were quite enough for jobs that pay enough to fund consoles just yet. So they waited and saved.

Christmas came around, and they opened the usual selection of gifts. We’ve never done huge presents for each child, instead buying smaller things and occasionally a large family gift, such as a console. We’re lucky that the kids have always been happy and grateful, pleased with what they had. This also meant that they thought the gift-giving was done. Then we gave them all one last gift.

I’ll never forget the sheer joy on their faces as they opened the boxes to find a Switch Lite each. It didn’t occur to any of them that they weren’t the only ones who had been saving. There were actual tears involved as they piled on us to say thank you. It also proved that while we’ve not usually been able to afford to spend so much at Christmas, it made the time we could do it all the more special. We may not have had days out or a holiday that year, but we ended it on a high.

We’re now two years on, and they still regularly play on their Switch Lites. Now the arguments over who plays on the main Switch are finished, replaced instead by heated discussions about who last had the Pokemon Sword cartridge, and who took the charger that was left unattended in the lounge. Oh, and they still accuse each other of cheating in Mario Kart. Some things never change.

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