The Cast: Myself (wishing), Rawlin (helpful), Santa (the best).
“I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!”
We all know that line. That quote from the spectacular 1983 film, A Christmas Story. It’s the one thing that Ralphie (the main character of the film) wants more than anything else in the world. We’ve all been there. That place where only one special gift will do. Sadly, it’s usually up to Santa Clause to bring it—so, you gotta be good. You all know it’s true.
That special gift that we really wanted as a child—or want as an adult—always seems to be out of our parent’s budget (or our own). So, we have to rely on the Big Man, the Man in Red, Santa Claus, himself. And, due to logistics, and whatevers, sometimes he comes through, and sometimes… Well, let’s try to keep this a happy story. Okay?
So, let us hop into the way-back machine and take a trip back to early 1980-something. Back to when I had that one special gift in mind. It wasn’t something I had to have or my world would come crashing to an end. No. It also wasn’t something that, if I didn’t get it, my life would end. Also, it wasn’t one of those gifts that I figured I could get from my parents. This was a gift that would be great to get, but, if I didn’t, that would be just fine. And, I knew my mom and dad probably couldn’t afford it (because it was so cool it had to cost like, a million dollars, or something like that). So, I wanted it, but, I would be just fine without it.
But, it was still at the Red Ryder caliber level of gifts. For me. At the time.
(and, it couldn’t shoot my eye out)
“What was it?” You may be asking of me. And, while that makes sense, it doesn’t. I can’t hear you. This is the web, not a phone call. Still, I will tell you. My big, special, Red-Ryder-BB-gun level gift was a Crystar, Crystal Warrior, Crystal Castle playset.
Yep. I knew it. You have no idea what I’m talking about.
Crystar, the Crystal Warrior, was a big deal during the time of G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Star Wars action figures, and all the other toys that had thirty-minute commercials that passed for children’s television programming. Okay, maybe Crystar wasn’t a big deal for everyone, but I liked him.
The basis of the story was this: A king had two sons. The king chose one son to take over the kingdom. The other son tried to murder his brother. The injured brother was put into a magical chamber that healed him but turned his body into living crystal. That son’s name: Crystar. The other brother ran off to join the forces of Chaos. The evil wizards of Chaos transformed the body of this brother to resemble the anger and hatred of his murderous heart. He was now living volcanic rock, filled with molten lava. This brother: Moltar. (really creative. I know. it gets better)
To show allegiances to Order, the followers of Crystar entered the crystal chamber and were transformed into living crystal. The followers of Chaos, and of Moltar, were transformed into living volcanic rock, filled with lava. With the king dead, his brother took over rule. To show impartiality, the new king, Feldspar, turned the top half of his body into crystal and the lower half into the living volcanic rock. I know… Such creativity. But, mock all you wish. It was awesome! And, I loved it! Every bit of it.
I had them all (except one). Which was easy, as there were only a handful of figures to get. Crystar and Moltar, Warbow, Koth, Magma Man (I know), Zardeth the evil wizard, a different colored copy of Zardeth, and the two dragons—one lava and one crystal. The only figure I didn’t have was Ogeode. I didn’t want him—I thought he looked stupid.
At any rate, the castle…
That castle was super cool. It had a prison, a zipline, a ramp to roll crystal boulders onto bad guys that came to the door, the door was a drawbridge, a collapsible ladder, a winch (with hook and real winding gears), a weapon rack (with weapons), and it was cool red and blue colors! It was super neat. Really.
I had only seen it in television commercials, so, I had no idea how big it would be in real life, or how much it cost. I could only guess. Then, on one of my family’s traditional Christmas shopping trips, magic occurred. As I have mentioned in Good-Buy Childhood, at Christmas time, my family would split up into teams to shop for each other. On this occasion, I was paired up with my brother. As the two of us walked about Target, we came to the toy section. On one end-cap there it was, stacked high… in rows and columns… Crystar’s Crystal Castle!
Now, I did fail to mention one very important thing: The family elf, Dorhety.
Dorhety had recently dropped off a rather large package at my home. It was addressed to me. Now, I say ‘rather large’ because to me it was. Hey, I was about six or seven years old. And, I wasn’t very big for my age. So, to me… To me that box was enormous! It really wasn’t. But I thought it was—and that’s all that mattered.
Anyway, due to the size of the box, I had spent several days pondering what could be within. It was squarish but still rectangular in height. We had a Death Star playset already, so, it probably wasn’t that (unless I was going to get my own… awesome!). As I had mentioned before, I didn’t know how big the Crystal Castle was because I had only seen it on television, so, while I did hope that it was in that present, I had no way of knowing—until that shopping trip.
As Rawlin and I looked over the castle playset, my mind became singularly focused. Oh, the battles I could have…
“Is it the same size?”
“What?” I was pulled back into the here-and-now by my brother’s question.
“Is it the same size as the present Dorhety left you?” He asked again.
“I don’t know. I didn’t measure it,” came my confused and feeble response. Who measures presents under the tree before you go shopping?! Nobody. That’s who. Well, maybe a madman.
“Well, let’s measure it then,” and with that, my brother had a grin from ear to ear that I knew was reflected in my face as well. Together, we struck upon the notion of setting one playset box on the ground and having me stand next to it. The top of the box came up to my knee. We now had a measurement to take home. Perfect. With that, we put the playset back on the shelf and completed our shopping for those members of our family that we had not yet bought presents for.
The next morning, with nobody in sight, Rawlin and I set out to measure the early Noth Pole package. We couldn’t have done it the night before as it was late, and my parents would have known what we were up to. In all the history of my childhood family, only once did anyone sneak a peek at what was inside a gift. My sisters both did it one year and it ruined the surprise so fully that they never did it again. With my wife and children, nobody ever has. They never wanted to spoil Christmas. That said, I never wanted to pre-open my present, I just wanted to get a better idea of what might be inside (this was as close as I ever got to pre-opening anything. ever. I live for the Christmas Morning surprise).
As I was saying… With nobody in sight, Rawlin and I carefully pulled the present out from under the tree. I stood next to it for good measure. Nope. It was not it. The present came up to my midthigh.
“Sorry.” Was all my brother could say. He could see my disappointment. We both thought for sure it was the castle. Oh well… Sure, it wasn’t that Red Ryder quality castle gift that I was hoping it would be. However, it was larger, so, really I wasn’t losing out. If you think about it.
“WAIT!” I shouted as silently as I could at my brother’s face. “I’ll be right back.” With that, I bolted from the tree faster than The Flash could ever run, down the hall, into our shared bedroom, and returned with the key to certainty (or what we perceived to be certainty): My moon boot!
If you lived through the ‘80s you probably know what a moon boot is. We all had them. On that shopping trip, in Billings, Montana, at Christmas time, you know I had my moon boot on. You also would know that it adds inches (inches!) to your height. With my left moon boot on (at the store we had measured using my left leg), we remeasured the present. It was the same height. It was the same height!
It was the same height…
On that Christmas morning, I waited to open that big present for a little while. My mother asked why. I told her that I just knew it had to be an extra good present. Something that size must be, and, therefore it needed to be saved for just a little bit, otherwise, all the other presents wouldn’t be so great—by comparison. She thought that to be good thinking. When I finally did open it up, my mind almost blew up. It was indeed the Crystar, Crystal Warrior, Crytal Castle playset. I understood how Ralphie felt. I had my ‘Red Ryder BB gun’. It was Christmas magic. And, as I mentioned before, only Santa could have made it happen. I love Christmas.
I no longer have any of those toys, nor any of the accessories, floating about. However, I do still have the only two Crystar comic books I ever saw in comic book stores. One had an epic tale with a nail-biting cliffhanger ending, the other had Nightcrawler (which is a fantastic one-comic-book-contained story).
Happy Christmas to you all, and may your holidays be happy and full of good cheer.