What is your first memory? If our memories came time stamped then that question could be easily answered. Unfortunately, when we revisit the memories in our head they do not come with a date and time. Maybe that is a good thing.
Just so happens that what I believe to be my first memory involves Super Mario Bros. It is a very short memory, and not particularly significant. For some reasons my brain believes that this memory is important enough that I remember it 28 years later.
It begins by walking around the corner into a landing right above the family room, or as we called it, “the back room.” And my Dad was sitting in a chair in front of the television playing Super Mario Bros. My older brother is standing behind my Dad looking over his shoulder. My dad was at the first castle on World 1. I had no idea what this game was, but it was different than anything I have never seen.
That’s it. That’s the memory.
Like most video games as you continue to play a game you learn the short cuts and the hidden items. I am pretty sure my brother and I found every single “secret” in Super Mario Bros. But while we knew all of the “secrets,” we never actually ended up beating Super Mario Bros.
Every now and then I could get to World 8-2, but that level felt so daunting that it I felt like it was impossible to beat the game. As more games came out we moved on from Super Mario Bros. Every now and then we would revisit the game but the same thing always happened. Mario would die.
My brother and I had a relationship like most brothers. We would fight each other daily and even hourly, but one thing we always did together was play video games. I remember playing Contra, Mortal Combat and Ninja Turtles with him as we were growing up.
This past Christmas my brother gave me a game console that plays old video games as a gift. One of the games which he bought with that console was Super Mario Bros.
It had been a while since I had played Mario, but it was an explosion of nostalgia. The moment I started playing Mario it was like I never stopped playing. The rhythm of the game came back naturally.
I had no problems remembering the “secrets” of Super Mario Bros. As most reading this probably remember, there is a way to get to World 8-1 in only a few minutes. I got there and then I proceeded to die. Several times. Game Over.
Yep, I still sucked. No denying it.
I continued to play every now and then over the past few months after my kids went to bed. I continued to lose. But it was still fun.
Then one night I beat World 8-2.
A week later I beat World 8-3.
I finally got to the last castle. With one life left. This is when heroes are made. All of the countless hours I put in to Mario had come to this point.
In the words of Herb Brooks from the movie, Miracle: “Great moments are born of great opportunity. This is your time. Now go out there and take it!”
This was my time.
So of course I proceeded to jump into the very first pit of lava. Game Over.
A few days later it was a battle to get the kids to sleep. Some nights are easier than others. After closing their door I waited a few minutes to make sure the kids were finally down for the count. After I felt it was safe, I headed downstairs.
Turned on Super Mario Bros. Died several times. Game Over.
That didn’t take very long. I’ll try again.
“Dad?” My four year old son had snuck out of his room. He made it to the basement without his mom hearing him.
“What are you doing?”
“Playing Mario. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”
“What are you trying to do?”
“Save the princess.”
“Can I watch?”
Sometimes you have to pick your battles.
“If your sister is asleep, then sure.”
I started a new game. I do have to admit it was fun watching him react to Mario on the screen. He would jump when Mario would jump. He asked about the mushrooms, flowers, fire balls and the “bad guys.” I know his childlike excitement for this game will not last forever so I enjoyed it.
Then a little thing happened. I reached the last level in the game. I made it to the final castle. But this time I had three lives instead of one. After I jumped over the first lava pit I paused the game and told my son that this was the furthest I have ever made it.
I got to the very end. I knew that I could take a hit (because I was still a big Mario) and just run right through and jump on the axe which would end the game. So I did it. I watched Bowser fall into the lava and Mario walked up to the Princess.
I won. I finally did it.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I yelled “I did it!” My wife texted me from upstairs and said, “Congrats!” But I wasn’t the only one who was excited. My son was jumping up and down with me.
“Dad, you saved the princess!”
“Yep, and you were here with me when I did it.”
It only took about 28 years to beat Super Mario Bros, but it was worth the wait.
Maybe in the future somebody may ask my son about his earliest memory. And now it is a possibility that my first memory and his first memory both involve us watching our Dad play Mario.