The Etch A Sketch

The Etch A Sketch
I am sure you remember the Etch A Sketch.  In our day, it was one of the most sought after, high-tech toys of its time.  One knob controlled the vertical movement, the other controlled the horizontal movement  and with a little practice a kid could produce a work of art that had the potential to rival a Stone Age outline produced by a Neanderthal.  When you completed your sketch or finished your attempt at printing block letters, all you had to do was turn it upside down and shake it… and the silver screen would appear blank again, enabling you to start yet another work of art.  I remember well that I was totally baffled as to how it functioned.  It may have been my most amazing and awesome toy while growing up.


The times, they are a-changing, and today my 4-year-old grandson (Nicholas) is infatuated with a different toy. It is called the Wii, and his favorite pastime is to play either of two Wii games, Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark.  If his mother would permit him, he could easily play these games non-stop, all day long for weeks at a time.  With his total concentration devoted to the Wii’s on-screen display of high-tech graphics, Nickers becomes spellbound and absolutely infatuated with his progress each time he plays. Something tells me that he would find the old Etch a Sketch about as dull as a lesson in adding compound fractions.  

The main components of his favorite game are two hand-held controls but half of the living room houses the rest of the computerized apparatus.

Recently, Nickers (who had not yet reached his fourth birthday) asked me to play a Star Wars game with him on his Wii.  He placed the device on the left in my one hand.  Then he placed the device on the right in my other hand. His only directions were, “Follow me, Pappy.” 

He got a tad upset with me from the get-go as I tried to look over the objects thrust into my hands and attached to my wrists.  The gizmo on the left had a guide module on top to set direction (forward, backward, right, and left) and two buttons or triggers on the front labeled “C” and “Z.” The direction was controlled by my thumb, but triggers “C” and “Z” were operated by my pointer finger.
The gizmo on the right consisted of a cross-like selector on the top area with a large button “A” located just underneath. Below those were three more buttons, labeled [-], Home (with a cute little house on that button), and [+].  Holes resembling a sound speaker of some sort were located below the three buttons, followed by two more buttons labeled #1 and #2. 

I honestly have no idea what function any of those buttons served.
At the very bottom were four lights with raised Braille-like bumps next to them. Again, I have no idea concerning their purpose.  I just prayed that any radiation coming from those lights would not affect my pacemaker.

From the only guidance and direction given to me, the purpose of the game (I assume) was to navigate through as many obstacles as you can, slay as many enemies as possible, don’t get bitten or killed, don’t fall off any cliffs - and the computer will add up your score to see how good you are. 
Keep in mind, Nickers is just a kid.  He started out by kicking, jumping, ducking and swinging an imaginary sword (I’m referring to his own actions here) at the same time his controlled character was going through the exact motions that Nickers was personally demonstrating.  I got out of breath and felt heart palpitations just observing him, but I’m sure he burned at least 9,650 calories in the first ten seconds.

About twenty seconds into our game, I started to giggle and totally forgot my initial assignment. Meanwhile, Nickers was slaying attackers, jumping on huge rocks, ducking, kicking and using his vine (or rope) as if he had been doing this for decades.
“Follow me, Pappy,” he continued.

My giggling escalated when he screamed, “Watch out for that red spider,” and “To swing on a rope, you have to push ‘C’ two times.”   He apparently forgot that his pappy is colorblind and had no idea that a red spider was present on the screen.  I never found button “C” either until the game had ended.  As his commands increased in volume, so did my loud, uncontrolled laughter. 

“If you want your man to jump, you have to hit button ‘Z’ twice,” he shouted.  Do you realize how difficult it is to discern between the sounds of the letters “C” and “Z” for a hearing-impaired grandpa?  I never did locate any correct buttons.  Every one of my character’s moves was wrong, every time.
With his fervor mounting, he began to shriek at me with increasing decibels and proceeded to give me more commands.  This, in turn, not only caused me to roar aloud and snort with vigor, but may have given ground for some bladder leakage (all too common for grandfathers experiencing enlarged prostate glands and shrinking urethras).  

All the while, Nickers was getting more and more frustrated with his pappy because he was forced to hold back his character and wait for me to catch up.  Five minutes into the game, he turned his character on me and kicked me over a cliff. I don’t know why he just didn’t cut me in half with his sword, but I’m sure he was capable of that feat, too.
If you’re not familiar with this game, the computer software will bring one’s character back up to the top of the hill.  But Nickers was ready and eagerly waiting with a chop, another kick, and a belly bump that sent me right back over the precipice again.  This went on for another two to three minutes, and I finally asked him why he turned on me. 

He gave no verbal answer.   With total disgust, he just kept beating the crap out of his pappy’s character, who was only trying to help Nickers’ character through the maze from the very beginning. 
After slaughtering more enemies and feeling more frustration than any soldier during any war in the history of mankind, Nickers finally glanced at his grandma and asked, “Baba, will you play Wii with me?”

Final outcome - Baba was even worse at this game than I was.  Nickers started beating the snot out of her character within the first 30 seconds of their game.
Nickers will rarely ask his baba or pappy to play with him anymore.  I wonder why?

God, I miss that Etch-A-Sketch! I can’t wait to buy one at a yard sale and then show Nickers how I can print the name “Pappy” on that silver board….and then I’ll make it disappear.  I am positive he will be impressed.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA