Operation

My sister’s twins just celebrated their sixth birthday. They have recently discovered Star Wars and Sonora – my niece – is particularly obsessed with it. (My nephew, Austin, is more interested in dinosaurs.)

I saw this game on Amazon and thought it could be a fun gift.

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I have fond memories of playing the original version back in the 80s. If you have never played the game, you have to remove little objects from little holes with electric tweezers and an alarm sounds if you touch the sides of the openings when trying to extract the object. It was a fun game and I feel like it was good for developing motor skills. (I wonder if I could get that goddamned butterfly, now?) Then I read in the comments that the sound effects are R2D2 noises and I swooned.

I may have briefly considered ordering two. You know. Like, for when the twins come to my house. (*wink* *wink*)

My niece was excited to see the words “Star Wars” when she opened the gift, but I found that I couldn’t quite explain the game to her. It barely makes sense when it was plain old Operation. Instead, I waited until the party was winding down to put the batteries in and get the game set up on the coffee table.

I claimed to want to “test” it to make sure it was functional, but really I just wanted to hear R2D2 make that “yeaaoow!” sound. It was exactly as charming as I suspected it would be, and the kids came running over to see what the game was all about.

We played a few rounds and it was a little tricky for the kids to remove the objects without triggering the alarm. Sarah (my sister) removed a piece easily on one turn which compounded Sonora’s frustration. “Mom!” she said. “You are so good at this!” Only it kind of sounded like an insult.

“We used to play this a lot when we were kids,” I said. “We’ve had more practice.”

“You did?” Austin asked, somewhat shocked. I think because he couldn’t picture us being kids.

“Yes,” Sarah said. “But it looked different. It wasn’t Star Wars.”

“What did it look like?” they both wanted to know.

“It was a man,” I said. “And you had to pull his bones out.”

They gave me a look that was either horror or disbelief. Or possibly some combination of the two.

I pulled out my phone to find a picture and immediately regretted it. It was easy to find an image of course, but I hadn’t remembered just how creepy the original version of that game was. I guess I knew he was naked, but I didn’t remember him being that naked. The man is barely covering his junk with his belly flap. Then there is his face. He had that crazy red pill of a nose that lights up when you hurt him. And his eyes and mouth are wide open. The anesthesia is obviously not working. There are just so many things to be upset about.

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Before I could close the browser, however, Austin had my phone. He stared at the image for several long seconds and his eyes got as big as the naked man’s.
“It’s a man,” I said again, guessing from his expression that he had no idea what he was looking at.

Finally he looked up and asked, “Where were you?”

“I…” I started. “I don’t understand the question.”

He turned to his mom and showed her the phone. “Where were you!?”

“It’s just a game, Austin…” Sarah said.

“No!” he insisted, grabbing his mother by the shoulder. “Mom! Where. Were. You!?!”
“At home!” She said. “At Grandma and Grandpa’s. Now take your turn.”
He gave each of us one more incredulous look before turning back to the game and then that was the end of that.
I was still thinking about it when I got home an hour or so later. “What did he mean, ‘where were you’? What did he think we had done to that poor creepy naked man?”

Then I remembered something that I hadn’t thought about in many years. I was a child… probably a little older than the twins. My mom had one of her sisters and some of my cousins over. They were pretty college aged girls and I wanted to converse with them. I don’t remember what I was trying to tell them, but I remember not being able to get them to understand what I was saying. They kept laughing at me and telling my mom how cute I was, and I was so furious with them and myself for not being able to make them understand that I went out to the yard and didn’t come back in until someone made me come to dinner.

We had this old ladder leaning on its side against the house. The wood was rotten and it was never used for its designed purpose, but when we were small enough we liked to walk back and forth across the top, balancing our feet on the edge and dragging our fingers along the house’s stucco exterior.

I remember I was pondering my frustration with adults and their inability to understand children. I didn’t understand them, either. But they HAD been children once. Why didn’t they remember what it was like?

Then I got the idea that I could make myself remember, so that when I was an adult I would understand. I balanced on the edge of the ladder and I closed my eyes and put my hands on the side of my head and repeated the magic words, “remember this, remember this, remember this…” for what seemed like a very long time. And I was pretty sure I would.

But I don’t. I remember a lot of things about that moment. I remember my pretty cousins laughing. I remember being frustrated. But I don’t remember what it was like.

And I have laughed at my niece and nephew. And once, when I laughed at something Austin said that I thought was so adorable, he burst into tears. The moment passed quickly – just like the one with the photo of Operation on my phone – but it stuck with me, also.

Austin is so imaginative. I was too, when I was his age. I wish I could picture what he saw when he looked at that image. I’m sure that he composed and elaborate story in the seconds he spent staring at it. One where my sister’s and I went on a crazy adventure with Mary Poppins and jumped in the wrong chalk painting on the sidewalk, and met an angry man with a red pill nose and butterflies in his stomach.

Whatever it was, I’m sure it was colorful and I would have found it amazing and hilarious, though he obviously didn’t see the humor. It’s too bad, really. I just don’t speak that language any more.

About Rachel Lewis

Rachel Lewis has worked as a barista, a book seller, a jewelry store window dresser, a wood shop lackey, a receptionist, an extra on Touched By An Angel, and once built thirty giant ants out of paper mâché to decorate a parade float. It took an entire weekend and she was paid approximately twenty dollars. She has written six short and one act plays which have been produced in showcases and festivals in Salt Lake City - Utah, Austin - Texas and Manhattan - New York. Her full length play, Locking Doors, was produced by the University of Utah in 2005. Subsequent productions were later staged in Twin Falls - Idaho and Jackson Hole - Wyoming. Ms. Lewis is currently employed in the pharmaceutical industry and is working on a masters in technical writing. She finds that keeping this web log effective prevents her dying from boredom. She is also makes and sells wheel-thrown pottery and is working on another full length play and a book of short stories. Rachel Lewis is a Utah native and lives in Salt Lake City with her Yorkshire terrier, Wensleydale Doggiepants.

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