PITTSFIELD -- It was my mother’s birthday a few days ago, and I recalled a story about the first time I ever intended to buy her a present.
I was 9, maybe 8, years old. I wanted to get her something, so I asked my father for some money, maybe 50 cents, to get her a nice card.
My dad opened his wallet and pulled out a dollar bill.
"Here," he said. "Buy her something instead. She’ll appreciate that."
Wow. Good idea from the Big Man, I thought.
Still, a buck didn’t buy all that much. But I recalled a small stationery kit at a store in downtown Adams that was about 89 cents. It looked like a good bet.
The next morning, I trundled downtown in my cuffed blue jeans and my Red Ball Jets. My destination was a small variety store called the Adams News. Local people may recall the Adams News, a Park Street staple for years.
The Adams News sold a lot of things, including stationery. Unfortunately, before you could get to the stationery display, you had to pass the comic books.
That day, I entered the store, and was stopped in my tracks by the comic book display.
Oh, man, there were some great comics that day! The Avengers, my favorite comic, were fighting The Masters of Evil, made up of a bunch of cool villains like the Radioactive Man, the Melter and the Black Knight. I had to have that one!
Meanwhile, the Amazing Spider-Man, my second favorite comic, had Spidey battling the Green Goblin.
Right next to Spidey was Fantastic Four #28. The title of the story said it all: "We have to fight the X-Men!" Well, if you have to fight ‘em, you better get started, guys! I snagged that one, too.
The hits kept coming. The X-men had a big month: After the Fantastic Four thumped them, they fought the Sub-Mariner in their book. Cha-ching! Thor was fighting The Cobra and Mr. Hyde. Plucked that one. Iron man? He was knocking heads with The Mandarin!
I was a Marvel guy in those days, but DC had some titles I followed. I liked Batman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, so I grabbed those titles, too.
This orgy of spending (comics were 12 cents in those days) left me with four cents. I strolled out of the Adams News with eight comics and a vague feeling of unease dogging me.
That feeling grew the closer I got to my house. By the time I got there, I was consumed with guilt. I ran up to my bedroom and threw the comics on my bed and (I know, self-pitying punk!) started bawling my eyes out.
Mom, hearing me, came up to my room.
"What’s wrong, honey?" she said, rubbing my back.
By now, I was overcome.
"Mom?" I sobbed. It all came out in a rush. "Dadgavememoneyforyourpresent! AndIspentitalloncomics!"
My mother laughed and hugged me.
"That’s OK, sweetheart," she said, kissing my forehead. "It’s the thought that counts. Don’t worry about it."
I would have preferred a punishment. But my mother always killed us with kindness. I was even more despondent when I learned that my stupid sisters had actually gone out and bought gifts with the money dad gave them.
When dad got home from work, he sort of sighed and shook his head. Now, I understand that I looked pretty pitiful, with my bulbous head, prisoner-style haircut (all hairs one-tenth of an inch long), my rolled up jeans and Red Ball Jets. But still, I’m sure it helped that my mother was OK with it. If I weren’t a huge Peg Gentile loyalist before, I became one that day.
And I eventually read all the comics.
Derek Gentile, an Eagle staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.