NOSTALGIA | WINTER ’18
STORY by STEVEN LOWE
ILLUSTRATIONS by MELISSA ROBLES
Los Angeles. Summer ’16
She’s burned OUT, and that’s not unusual for queer folk around the holidays; memories alone can spark post-yuletide stress syndrome. But Christmas mornings were the BEST— the woes of being bullied or secretly heartbroken by some boy in middle school drowned out by the sound of tearing wrapping paper almost louder than Mariah Carey Christmas in the background were forgotten. I’ve been thinking about holidays past and my favorite gifts—and one stands out among the rest: a remote-controlled Super Turbo Train. No, it wasn’t a game console (SMH); it was a gateway drug leading to the tech and game floozy I am today. Part of the track was made to run up the wall and back down again in a sort of super-speed half circle, jumping a gap in the track. Mind BLOWN.
Today, I might wish for an Amber Rose African toy goddess who screams “you betta” when you pull a cord, but I wanted to know what made the other bois and gals cry out for joy. Here’s what they found on their favorite mornings of Christmas past.
Illustrator + Painter
When I was eight years old, I wanted a robot. Not just any robot, the Omnibot 2000 found between the pages of the Sears Christmas catalogue that retailed for $500. My father, who worked 14 hours days to provide for our family, laughed when I showed it to him. My plan was to make this robot my best friend because according to the commercials, it would wow all my peers and transform me from geek to cool kid. I’d make it carry my books at school (even though I was in elementary school and didn’t change classes or have a locker). I woke up Christmas morning to find a robot under the tree that was not the Omni 2000. I don’t remember the exact model number of this bootleg robot. No moving head. Arms slightly tilted. It was short and fat. It looked more like R2D2 than Johnny Five, and this was a problem. Looking back, the robot debacle taught me a valuable lesson about expectations and gratitude. Over the next month, I took a liking to the inferior robot and a month after that, my mother found it hidden in a corner of my closet, dismantled and stripped of its vital parts like a stolen car on cinder blocks. Not only did I not turnout to be a selfish, entitled monster, had I actually received and dismantled a $500 robot, I’d still be grounded to this day.
Co-Host of Relationsh!t Podcast
Like every other red-blooded American in the 90s, my family and I were die-hard fans of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. We had so much memorabilia: tapes, cologne, trading cards, and don’t forget about the shoes. At the same time, another basketball player was dominating the courts, and he was much more my speed. At seven feet one inch, and 325 pounds, Shaquille O’Neal was the center for the Orlando Magic and was the coolest person on the court. When my brother and I woke up on Christmas morning in 1995, not only did I get an oversized Orlando Magic winter coat with the team’s logo sprawled across the back, but inside of a leather accessories box was a watch with an Orlando Magic face and black leather band. My gasp must have shocked everyone, because Dad said between laughs, “You’re reacting to this watch like you’re acting in a commercial!” I was stunned trying to separate myself from the “norm” and wanted my parents to see me as an adult. I have them to thank for that memory.
Ahh, so one of the best gifts I’ve ever received on Christmas was definitely my VideoNow. Now for all those born after 2000, VideoNow was the hottest portable digital viewing device ever that played your favorite TV Shows. And because my mom didn’t have cable at the time, it was my way of bringing the cable TV to my world. I was obsessed with “Drake & Josh.” Me and my little brother would often re-tell their jokes to one another and pretend we were them—well, the black version which is actually “Kenan and Kel” sips tea but anyways… My mom brought me the blue one and I was floored! She also brought an assorted pack of discs that included “Drake & Josh,” “Rocket Power,” and “Rugrats.” I stayed up all Christmas watching reruns of “Drake & Josh” yelling “Hug Me Brothaaa” to my little brother. Definitely one of the best holidays ever!
Trans Advocate + Lawyer
My most cherished holiday gift growing up was one of those electronic pianos. I received the piano when I was about 10 years old and it still sits in my room at my childhood home. It was Christmas morning circa 2009 and my mother’s partner at the time had come over with his son to open presents. My mom insisted that her partner’s son—let’s call him Zach for this story’s purpose—open presents first. So, Zach is opening gifts and I’m growing impatient. He gets lots of things that I did not care about i.e., G.I. Joe’s, underwear, pajamas, etc. However, when it gets to Zach’s last gift, he rips open the wrapping paper and it’s a keyboard. I immediately lose it: “Why does he get one of those? I want that.” I can’t really remember but I think I started crying and being an all-around rotten child. Turns out, my mom had wrapped one for me as well, and had I just kept my cool, I probably would have opened it faster than my tantrum lasted. Needless to say, my mom was pissed (and probably embarrassed) and took the piano away from me for a month so I could learn my lesson. I never threw a tantrum on Christmas morning again.
Host of WokeAF SiriusXM + News Correspondent
Christmas was always a super-special time of year in my house. My mother would ask my sister and I in early November for our lists and boy did I know how to make one. The funny thing was my mother was slick because she signed the cool gifts from her, and then the batteries for the toy would be from Santa! Haha. Her excuse? “It was my money why should he get all the credit?” Couldn’t argue with that black mother logic and realness.
My favorite was this really complicated board game that involved volcanoes and rainforests. You’d be sent all these places if you took a wrong spin or turn. I loved it and somewhere there is this picture of me holding it and screaming with joy—you would have thought I won the lottery!
Actress + Comedian
My fondest Christmas memory ever was actually the year that I got my Barbie Caravan. It was like a campsite in one box—absolutely amazing! It had a jacuzzi and when it flipped open there were tables and chairs and everything. It was the most tedious set to put together but it was the coolest! When it was all assembled, the entire living room floor was covered in a Barbie dream land and all of my Barbies were brown with the exception of one (and I had like 8 of them) so I pretty much was the Queen of a Brown Barbie village! That same Christmas was the start of the tradition of me watching “Beauty and the Beast” every Christmas morning. That year I got to watch what I wanted and my brother actually went along with it which was really cool, plus, I was Queen of my Barbie village that had every single accessory ever!