Today in the spirit of goodwill and because I wanted to put off doing the dishes, I agreed to play a video game with my teenaged son. Electronics is still a new and unfamiliar territory for me. I remember when we played Solitaire with real cards. Teenagers are also a new and unfamiliar territory. I remember when I entertained the children with the big box of Crayolas and a Barney video.
He handed me a controller that looked like the key to the nation’s nuclear warheads.
“Shouldn’t this be kept in a briefcase chained to a large, clean-shaven man in a suit?” I asked turning it over in my hand.
“It’s easy. You press the big buttons on the front to go up and down and to look behind you. You use the four arrow keys to go the different directions. You press the round button at the bottom to shoot.”
“What are these other little buttons for?” I asked gesturing toward a circular arrangement that resembled a miniature Stonehenge.
“You don’t want to know.”
Instinctively, I tightened my grip. There was a blinding blue flash on the screen.
“Great move, Mom. You just blew yourself up.”
After some experimentation, I managed to mobilize my soldier. He advanced to a cliff and fell over the edge. Luckily he landed beside an assault rifle which would come in handy if I could figure out how to pick it up. While I was still trying to decide which combination of alphabet buttons to use, my son buzzed by my head with a flying motorcycle. There was a blinding blue flash on the screen.
“Mom, you might want to stay away from that big button on the right. You blew yourself up again.”
“I can’t help it. When you attack me, my keen, battle-honed instincts kick in and I squeeze the controller.”
“Well your keen, battle-honed instincts just took out two jeeps, a health pack, and your food supply.”
“My soldier has adapted to short rations in the field.”
“That’s because he’s dead.”
I was delighted to find that my soldier reacted to stress the same way I do after a long day at work. He frequently collapsed in a pile then popped up prepared to obliterate mankind in the mad search for provisions. Granted, learning to work the controller was a little bit tricky. The soldier’s head refused to function in cooperation with his body, and there were times I felt sure his feet started off in directions that had nothing to do with the overall mission plan. Sounds like any given Monday morning at my house.
I wish all I had to do for supplies was stroll over a backpack along the trail. In real life, I’d probably break my leg in three places, dislocate my elbow, and tear my pantyhose, only to find there was nothing left in the rations pack but six stale Cheerios and a candy bar wrapper. Here, there was a blinding blue flash and moments later Soldier Boy was as good as new.
My son, good sport and selfless humanitarian that he is, soon tired of watching my multiple suicide missions and began to give me pointers. “Mom, the thing to remember is that if you see a blue flash, that’s bad.” And later, “Mom, your gun is pointed at the ceiling. You just blew a skylight into your hideout.” Soon after that, he sighed and stopped his soldier so close to mine that I could have parted his helmet with my flame thrower if I could figure out how to aim at anything besides my feet.
My teenaged son was giving me a free shot. I smiled as my keen, battle-honed instincts took over.
There was a blinding blue flash.
He sighed. “Mom, how’d you like to play Solitaire? We’ll do it the old-fashioned way. We’ll use real cards.”