When recalling memories of being a toddler, you’ll often meet people who can remember being one or two years old. In some instances, you’ll even meet somebody who claims to have memories of being an infant. My memory well runs dry once I dig deep enough to reach 1988, when I was three years old. This also happens to be the year of one of my fondest memories.
I imagine my third birthday wasn’t much different than birthday parties of other white, suburban families in the late 80s: cake, presents, neighborhood kids, family members who were no doubt drinking or doing some sort of drug. Oh, and pizza. I can’t forget to make mention of the ever-present greasy dough that would hold my eventually chubby hand during an expedition towards childhood obesity.
Speaking of toys, I received my fair share of presents from my then-favorite franchise: The Real Ghostbusters. There were a few figurines, but the gifts that stand out the most in my mind are the Ghost Popper and Ghost Zapper. The Ghost Popper came with six foam bullets that relied on air pressure to fire. The Ghost Zapper was damn cool, especially to a 3 year-old kid. It had a picture disk that, when rotated, projected images of different ghosts for you to shoot. Everything else at my party became irrelevant after opening those gifts.
At this point, I was obviously I was ready to bust some ghosts with my new equipment, but I couldn’t do it alone. Who better to ask for help than my hero: my 14 year-old cousin, Derek? At that time, Derek rode BMX bikes and skateboards. He would eat Cocoa Pebbles with me and played board games with my sister and I. To three year-old me, he was the coolest person on the planet that wasn’t a Ghostbuster.
Derek went with me to my room and helped me get my new toys up and running. We shot at targets with the Ghost Popper and turned off the lights so we could see the images of different ghosts with the Zapper. After a bit of fun, he had this idea that we should head back out into the living room with the blasters tucked back into the collars of our shirts. I sauntered back into the living room like suburban royalty, full of the kind of happiness that only comes from family.
I was also no longer afraid of ghosts.