Nineties, Nostalgia, Pokemon, TBT

Charizard. One of the most infamous Pokemon (and one of the coolest…I mean, Pikachu has got nothing on this guy). While a favorite of many, this Pokemon holds a special place in my heart. You see, for about one week in fifth grade, I went from being a nobody to one of the most popular kids in my class (maybe even the school) and it was all thanks to this Pokemon.

Time to set the scene: Easter, the second best holiday after Christmas for a kid (followed closely by Halloween). A found basket full of goodies nestled safely in front of me. As I am munching on my chocolate bunny, a flash of silver catches my eye. I pull out a pack of Pokemon cards with a picture of a turtle that had cannons attached to it’s back.

Now Pokemon was still a new thing at the time; the cards were just starting to gain popularity in school and I had yet to start watching the television show or playing the game (more on those experiences in later blogs). So, needless to say, I didn’t know much about the franchise. All I knew was that this turtle (which I later learned was called Blastoise) was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

I ripped into the pack, hoping I would find a Blastoise of my own (I mean, he was on the wrapping, so it was only logical that he would be included in the pack, right?). I quickly scanned through the cards, stopping at each glimpse of blue, not really sure what I was looking for. Disappointed that I didn’t get a Blastoise, I went back through the cards slower this time, looking at each one. I had caught a glimpse of something shiny on the first scan, so I was curious as to what card that might have been.

Charizard. While not a turtle shooting fromĀ giant cannons on his shell, it was still a cool card. I mean, who doesn’t love a fire-breathing dragon? I was actually anxious to return to school and see what I could trade. Maybe I could even get a Blastoise!

After Easter break, I went off to school, my box of Pokemon cards in my book bag (I had gotten more booster packs from both of my grandparents, as well as spent some of my Easter money on them). As I got off the bus, it was pretty obvious what the big seller of the Easter season had been. Nearly everyone in the school had at least a few Pokemon cards. I mean, if you wanted to get noticed, if you wanted to fit in AT ALL, you had to be carrying around some cards. Some kids, like me were utilizing converted Spacemaker pencil boxes, while others showed off their prosperity by displaying theirs laid out in binders. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some teachers were sneaking off to the teacher’s lounge to show off their cards as well.

Kids were huddled in groups up and down the hallway, comparing cards like they were precious treasures (and some of them were, as I was soon to find out). I joined my best friend who was in a group outside our classroom. It didn’t take us long before we had each others collections (he was one of the ones who had a binder), looking through them to see if the other had been more fortunate with their luck and whether or not we should be jealous.

I open his binder and, lo and behold, there on the first page, mocking me is a Blastoise, the card I had been coveting since opening my first pack. And it was shiny, just like my Charizard! Before I could exclaim my indignation over how lucky he was, he let out a gasp of his own, causing everyone in our small group to look and see what had caught his attention. He was holding Charizard and staring at it, almost reverently. Upon seeing what it was that had caught his eye, the other kids crowded around, letting out their own sounds of exclamation.

Now, before I go on, let me explain something about myself. I wasn’t a very outgoing kid. I had one or two close friends, but that was about it. I was acquaintances with nearly everyone in my year (I knew them, they knew me, and we were friendly with each other for the most part), but I never hung out with anyone other than my main friends. For example, this group I was currently in were friends of my friend.

Anyway, one of the group turned to me and asked if the Charizard was mine. I nodded and suddenly found myself the center of the group’s attention, an unfamiliar experience, but one I found I kind of enjoyed.

“You are so lucky!” one kid exclaimed.

I must have looked a bit lost/dazed because my friend leaned over as he gave me back my card and whispered, “Charizard is probably the rarest Pokemon card there is. That’s the fist one I’ve ever seen in person.”

I just stood there, unsure of what to do, not used to this much popularity, as the group continued to ogle the card. Once they were done admiring Charizard, they turned their attention to me. One gave me a hard case to put the card in so it wouldn’t get damaged. Another went through his binder and gifted me with a Charmander and Charmeleon so I would have the set. He even threw in a handful of fire energy cards so I could use Charizard in an actual game (although I never did bother learning how to play).

It was a surreal experience – going from someone who was used to being in the background, now being center stage under a spotlight. But if I thought that this was a popularity/ego booster, it was nothing compared to what would happen at recess later that day…

Next time: My popularity reaches it’s peak and I cash in before returning to obscurity.


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