I dusted off my original Nintendo Entertainment System, Blew the cartridge, pushed in that little power button, and selected 1 player. “This is called Super Mario brothers”, I said, And I handed her the controller. “This button on your left controls where you go, and you can press the B button to jump, and the A button to go fast… Just don’t bump into those turtle looking guys, and don’t fall into the holes. And careful of those angry flowers that come up out of the pipes. You’ll want to Hit your head against the flashing bricks, and try to find mushrooms, stars, and flowers… they help Mario win”.
Just 20 minutes later and she, well Mario, was sliding down the flag pole, level one complete. She’s 5, which is how old I was when my brother brought that very same system home. He was old… Very old… 14 to be exact… and he knew everything about everything….And I remember learning my left from my right, by looking at those controller cords. I was always the 2nd player, and my cord was on the right. I wanted to beat him, I wanted to be better than him, but most of all, I was just glad he let me play.
So, I’m watching her as she enters level two… The music is darker, the world is darker… and she loves it. But she can’t finish this one… not by a long shot…. “Mama… just get the star for me”…. I hastily take over the controller, and I might as well have stepped into a time machine. Back, Back, Back 29 years….No sleep til Brooklyn, Brass Monkey, and Slow and Low playing in my mind…. Only I’m on the left now, and I know all the shortcuts and the time warps. And I can’t tell if I feel very young, or very old. And sure enough I run right into a turtle looking guy and die… And our heads jerk towards one another and we both laugh. And the time machine has somehow turned into a mirror… and I’m looking at myself. And for a split second I don’t feel young, or old, but immortal. And in my mind I hear “Let it flow, let yourself go, slow and low, that is the tempo”.