Christmas day, 1982: Children awoke to boxes filled with the hottest popular toys and gadgets that season. Depending on their parent’s budgets they could expect to find such things as Coleco’s Table Top Arcade Games, Master’s of The Universe action figures, Glo-Worms and Strawberry Shortcake dolls and, if you were especially lucky, a brand spanking new BMX.
Chances are the tree was adorned in thick, rope garland tinsel and gaudy grapefruit sized heavy ornaments that most likely were concussion hazards for any cat that dared climb in the tree. Another sure thing is, if there happened to be a young consoler in the house, there was a copy of Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the 2600 under those groaning boughs. And if so, there was a high likelihood it was wrapped in this:
Putting aside that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has went down in history as being the worst game ever made, the holiday season products of 1982 were a huge hit. The adorable image of the kindly alien tapped into the deepest pathos of children and adults alike, spurring a much needed return to innocence that crossed generational lines –even religious ones– like wildfire. Ornaments, wrapping paper, pajamas, slippers and Christmas stockings all bore the winsome face of the moon-riding ambassador of goodwill… only to vanish and never return.
I’d like to think that someday the many ornaments and other Christmas ephemera will be made again, if not for the sake of nostalgia, but for the fact that E.T. has been for too long the symbol of failure attached to a game from a long ago Christmas rather than the carrier of universal joy and wonder seen in the movie that should have lived on.
Whether you were 8-years old or 80, you wanted to be on the back of that bike…don’t lie. With the state of America today we could all use a visitation from this imaginative and magical little alien again. In fact, the whole world could benefit from his message: Peace on Earth