Disclaimer: This is a story about Daniel Smith’s mom. Don’t be deceived by the title, there are no jetpacks or explosions in the story. But on the bright side, there is no Sinbad either. Just kidding Sinbad, Daniel loves you and is still waiting for the sequel to First Kid…First Kid 2: Second Kid.
This story is not so much about me, but my Mom around Christmas. Back in the early 90s, my Mom decided to go back to work. She got a job working at the Southlake Mall Rich’s in the Trim-A-Tree shop. She would go on to become store manager pretty quickly because that is just how she rolls. Anyway, everyone from the 90s remembers the major toy hysteria: Furbies, Tickle-Me-Elmo and, of-course, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
The Power Rangers were very popular, much more popular than any of the actors or even the creator expected. I mean, come on, Saban took action sequences from Japanese kids shows and spliced them together with cheesy teenage scenes (you know, the kind of 90s cheese where most of the main character always have the same classes together, and you swear they were using a Time-Turner because they are in so many different classes. One week it is Home-Ec, the next week Trig, then Algebra, how are those co-requisites? Alright, getting off topic).
And then came the toys. Remember how I said they became more popular than anyone expected? Well, there were not enough toys to go around. Cases of toys would show up and be gone in a matter of minutes. Parents got into fights over these things. If eBay had been around in 1993, people would have put Titanus up there for $400 with the tagline “Save your kid’s Christmas, get the carrier Zord!”
Now, my Mom worked at a mall. Kids, a mall was like Amazon.com but with brick and mortar stores for each category because in the 90’s you couldn’t just order a toy online and have it show up at your doorstep 2 days later. Also there was a food court with pizza. No matter which mall you went to, they all had a Sbarro pizza place. But Rich’s, the store my mom worked in, they sold toys! This should have been a cakewalk, right? Mom gets there before the store opens, grabs a Megazord, sticks it in the closet and my Christmas is made. Except employees were not allowed to do that. But again, she was in a mall, so there were other options. One particular option that everyone knew about was Kay-Bee Toys.
Kay-Bee toys was paradise for a kid in the 90s. Isles were filled with toys of all kinds, 16-bit systems demoed the latest games (I once beat Sonic 2 in one play-through at Kay-Bee just because I could), and it was small; it was so small that your parents would let you wander off because, so long as they were by the door, there was no way that you could get more that 30 feet away.
Thanks to this perfect storm of commerce, Jingle All the Way was not just a holiday classic that will continue to stand the test of time, it was social commentary on the Hell that our parents went through each and every Christmas. Parents would roll up their sleeves and venture into a mosh-pit of other rabid parents. The thing is, instead of spending just one day looking for a Turbo Man while fighting off Sinbad, parents sometimes had to look for weeks to find a specific toy. EVERY SINGLE MORNING for months my Mom would leave Rich’s and walk over to Kay-Bee right when it opened. The Megazord was my mom’s Turbo-Man. But tragically, with Power Rangers being more popular than anyone thought possible, many stores never got any Megazords. Sometimes 2-3 would show up at Kay-Bee and some other vicious, driven parents would walk away with them. Sometimes the store would open and they would say no Power Rangers toys came in. What if you logged onto Amazon every day and the thing you wanted was always sold out? Can you even fathom that? Of course not, because shopping is all about instant gratification now.
I never asked my Mom what it was like to finally get the Megazord. I never asked my Uncle Phillip what it was like to get his hands on enough Dragonzords for all the boys in the family. But I imagine it was like winning a battle. I imagine that it was akin to that feeling Frodo got after throwing the ring into the lava or when Maury Povich tells you that you are not the father. Maybe another parent caught a glimpse of my Mom leaving with her prize and was overcome with a feeling of resentment and reluctant respect, the way you respect an opponent who has bested you fair and square, or maybe the way you begrudgingly respect Kevin James because, even though he has not been funny in a long time, he still does what he loves. However it felt, each Christmas toy craze was a 2-month war against every other family to get your kids the best toy of the season. And in 1993 House Smith eked out a win. That magnificent Megazord (technically it is the Ultrazord) still sits on my desk as a memorial to the Christmas War of 1993.