Posted on September 25, 2013
It’s Mario, and you Paint
I don’t consider myself to be the most creative person on the planet, but whenever I do happen to come up with something original – be it musical or anything artistic – I tend to dismiss it rather quickly. That’s a bit harsh, perhaps, but I’m somewhat able to keep an open mind about that sort of thing nowadays.
When I was 9-10 years old, however, forget about it. I had a ton of crayons and an infinite amount of construction paper at my disposal, but I’d never be content with anything I made. I knew kids in school that knew how to draw really well, and anything I ever made looked like crap in comparison.
With Mario Paint, I finally found some level in satisfaction with the things I created. It was so easy to breeze through the paint tools with the mouse, and since we didn’t own a PC of our own (yet), this was a level of freedom I hadn’t experienced before. It really was quite special, at the time.
Aside from painting something from scratch, you could also create your own “stamps” (pixel art, basically), try your hand at music composition, or even animation. If you got fed up with any of that, you could always try your hand at the Gnat Attack mini-game.
I didn’t play it as much as I did other games, but it was always nice to pop in Mario Paint whenever I was bored. It was definitely a fun deviation from the norm, which Nintendo seems to be all about these days.
My Mario Paint memories are slightly bittersweet. Even my subconscious must think so, because I made a typo just now and wrote “Mario Pain”. It’s not quite that dramatic, however, since it’s not a completely unhappy memory.
My birthday is September 2, and every year when I was growing up, it meant that school was just around the corner. I certainly have some great birthday memories, but once September 3 rolled around, I was back to being in an overall grumpy mood.
In 1992, I was getting set to go into Grade 4. My Uncle Albert was in town for a visit from Newfoundland, but his usual travelling partner, his wife Meeta, was back in St. John’s. Meeta had Alzheimer’s disease and was confined to a nursing home, and I guess Albert just wanted to do some travelling to get his mind off things.
On the night of my 9th birthday, my parents, Albert and I hopped in the car and headed to the Co-Op. I wasn’t sure why we were going so late in the day, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter. Instead of going into the store with my mom and dad, I stayed in the car, and chatted away about this and that with Uncle Albert.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, Meeta and Albert were actually my dad’s aunt and uncle, which made them my great-aunt and great-uncle.
Anyway, at one point in the conversation, Albert reached back and handed me a beige and brown sheet of paper. It looked like money, and it felt like money, and there was a picture of some guy on it with “100” in the corner. Of course, it couldn’t actually be money, because there was no such thing as a $100 bill…
My great-aunt Melda (on my mom’s side, in Baie-Sainte-Anne) had a framed $1,000 bill on top of her fridge – yep – but I always just thought it was a fake. After Albert assured me the $100 bill was real, I got to thinking about Melda’s $1,000 bill…
Then, I started thinking about what sort of things I could buy with $100… that could pay for a lot of trips to McDonald’s for McChicken Nuggets, or quite a few chocolate bars and bags of chips at the store around the corner!
$100 seemed like an infinite amount of money to 9 year-old Andre! Obviously, I was quite thankful to Albert for the gift.
When my folks got back to the car, they handed me a grocery bag with Mario Paint in it. It had been quite an exciting 10 minutes, considering I had been sitting in a parked car for all of it.
For the next few days, I played the hell out of that game. I coloured, enjoyed the special effects that would happen when clearing off the screen, and had a great time playing Gnat Attack. I also enjoyed turning all the pre-loaded songs in music mode into “Fart Songs”; in the music mode, every sound effect had a different icon, and the pig icon made a fart-like noise. I’d replace all the existing icons with the pig, and every single note sounded as though it was being farted.
Honestly, you haven’t heard “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” until it’s been performed by a chorus of farts.
It pretty much sounded like this, actually.
In any case, Josh came over a few days after my birthday to see what Mario Paint was all about. I was in the middle of showing him how to do various things when my mom called me out to the living room.
She sat me down, and calmly told me that my Pepère Joe – her father, my grandfather – had passed away in his sleep at his nursing home. I don’t remember her being all that emotional about it, but it’s all a bit of a blur. I was obviously quite stunned by the news, even though I didn’t consider myself to be as close to Pepère as I was to Memère.
I went back to the bedroom where the Super NES was hooked up, told Josh what had happened, and went back to playing the game. I was somewhat distracted by the news, but I held up pretty well.
We made the trip to the Baie later that week, and there was gathering after gathering at my grandmother’s house. I kept to myself for the most part, staying in that same old room where I always played Nintendo. When the funeral came, however, there was no way I’d be getting out of it.
About halfway through the funeral, as my sister was coming back from a reading, I just lost it. I don’t know if it was the hymns being sung, seeing my grandmother in such a sad state, or what, but I started bawling my eyes out. It was so sudden and unexpected, and the more I cried, the more embarrassed I was.
I felt bad at the time for losing my composure so dramatically, but looking back, I totally get it.
In any case, it was less than a year later that we were all sitting at the kitchen table when my dad got the call about Albert passing away suddenly. That’s another moment that will be etched in my mind forever.
So, whenever I play Mario Paint, I can’t help but think of Albert, and Pepère. Perhaps a bit about that crazy week of celebration and mourning, but all the good times, as well.