The longevity of pocket monsters

Susan Flanagan
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You never know what will make somebody’s Christmas magical

— File image

Surprise Baby is obsessed with Pokemon, toys I thought we were through with a decade ago. These cute little Japanese Pocket (Poké) Monsters (Mon) come as figures or cards. We still have a Pikachu wall hanging that Betty, the babysitter, gave No. 3 10 years ago.

About a year ago, when Surprise Baby discovered Pokemon at the God-family’s house, I painted over No. 3’s name on the Pikachu wall hanging and wrote in the Surprise Baby’s. But, being the neat freak I am, I had given away all our Pokemon toys several years ago. Hundreds of cards and dozens of figures had moved to Kingston, Ont., for lucky young Gavin. His parents, not so lucky.

Besides the Pikachu name plate, the only Pokemon presence left in our house were Game Boy games that Santa brought in the last millennium. Amazingly, these games can still keep the offspring occupied for any road trip beyond the metaphorical overpass.

Fifteen years ago, most parents I knew hated Pokemon. Although I never looked forward to watching Pokemon movies (I used to pay my nephew to go into the cinema with the children and I’d stay outside and read a book), the idea of battling pocket monsters never bothered me. Pokemon taught my first four children about evolution. Not in the monkey sense, but in the sense that Bulbasaur evolves into Ivysaur. Or Geodude evolves into Graveler who evolves into Golem.

It also taught them great memory skills — either that or it filled their brains to overflowing with entirely useless Pokemon vital statistics.  

My children had fun discovering that Ekans is Snake backwards and that Ekans evolves into Arbok, which is Kobra backwards. A quick read through Scholastic’s “Ultimate Pokemon Handbook” explains that Abra, who can teleport, changes into Kadabra, whose alpha waves can ruin precision devices and who changes into Alakazam, who can remember everything it has ever done.

Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan are fighting Pokemon named after Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Kangaskhan looks like Genghis Khan if he had been a kangaroo. Playing Pokemon is like watching a Pixar movie with all the double entendres. And the story line about a little Japanese kid waking up to find a Pokemon in his room is not half-bad.

So on a recent Friday, when a local giant toy store announced a half-price sale on Pokemon figures, I figured I should rejoice in the fact that Surprise Baby isn’t yet interested in “Halo: Black Ops.”

In the name of stocking stuffers, I scurried out Kenmount Road in pre-happy-hour traffic, so proud I was getting a jump-start on Christmas shopping. I battled my way through the crowds, all there in response to the flyer that started that day, to an entire aisle of Pokemon. Most of them I didn’t recognize, as they were from the new Black and White series which I would have called Longevity if I were marketing for Nintendo.

The familiar Pikachu and Onix were present but down at ankle level. The rest of the roughly six foot by 15 foot shelf space was taken up with flashy new Pokemon who screamed “take me home.”

I picked out three packs thinking, yippee-do! They’re all 50 per cent off. Then I beat my way to the checkout, only to find out that, although the store’s flyer did indeed start that Friday, the Pokemon sale was only good on Saturday and Sunday. Always read the small print.

There was no way I was coming back out here on the weekend. There is a God, however, because they had scratch-and-win tickets at the cash and I got $25 off to appease me.

I left the store wondering if it was all worth it. If Pokemon was on Surprise Baby’s Christmas list, then yes, the trip was justified. But then, Surprise Baby wouldn’t have a Christmas list if I didn’t teach him to have one. Last year, Surprise Baby’s very favourite surprise on Christmas morning was a second-hand wooden train passed down from his Auntie Pat.

Do we absolutely have to make sure each child gets mountains of loot if it means purchasing useless things that the child probably won’t look at? I know, I know, I’m sounding Grinchy. But I have to remind myself that less is more.

I do go shopping, but it is not one of my favourite pastimes. I have no qualms about putting in orders with friends and relatives who I think might be able to pick up something easier than I can. When I do hit a store, I have a list in hand and go straight to buy those things. Then I get the heck out of there.

I do take advantage of sales such as Downtown Tax Free (DTF) days. On the last DTF day, I visited Maverick, one of my favourite stores, and although it was like a Toronto golf course on the first day of the playoffs, I passed my list to Andrew who produced what I needed so quickly that I only had time for two impulse purchases.

DTF day is not the time to go twacking. All window shopping should be done well in advance and then on DTF day, you move for the attack.

Someone asked me recently what my favourite Christmas gift was. They were flabbergasted when I said it was when my husband took all our kitchen knives and had Kevin at the Modern Shoe Hospital sharpen them.

I think she was expecting me to say something more like diamond earrings or the 14-pound milk chocolate Santa from the Newfoundland Chocolate Company.

Not that I wouldn’t mind 14 pounds of milk chocolate, but I know that the magic of Christmas lies more in what we do than what we get.

Like on the Sunday before the big day, when our van has a fir tree strapped to the roof and is riding so low that it touches the pavement because it’s laden down with two adults, four teenagers, a surprise baby, snowshoes, an axe and a saw.

That’s what Christmas is all about.


Susan Flanagan is a writer who is secretly hoping her scissors get sharpened this Christmas. Email her at

Organizations: Pixar, Nintendo, Modern Shoe Hospital Newfoundland Chocolate Company

Geographic location: Kingston, Kenmount Road, Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Lee
    December 13, 2011 - 18:41

    Your coherence is amazing! I love all of these relevant facts you up in there, like how Abra "whose alpha waves can ruin precision devices and who changes into Alakazam" and that "Surprise Baby" got a second-hand wooden train passed down from his Auntie Pat!! And the good moral and message this article had. It was great how clear it was! (Please, acknowledge my use of sarcasm) This article was poorly written. The title and the fact that Pikachu was on the front page got me reading it, but the article did not stay true to the title.

  • Laura Noftall
    December 13, 2011 - 08:30

    Who is surprise baby ?