We all have regrets in life. Sometimes those regrets are significant -- for example, we might regret not telling a departed loved one how much he/she meant to us when he/she was still alive. Sometimes our regrets are more trivial -- after a disappointing grilled chicken sandwich, we might regret not having ordered a large platter of onion rings and disco fries. Sometimes those regrets are quickly forgotten; sometimes they stay with us for a lifetime.
Sometimes those regrets are kinda silly.
So here's a regret I think about a lot -- promise you won't laugh. You've heard of Kmart? If you haven't, it's a one-stop discount shopping spot, a la Walmart or Target or a bunch of other places you're probably familiar with: think of a place where you can pick up clothing, furniture, hardware, groceries, toys, office supplies, electronics, and a bunch of other items all in one go. These places don't typically have the extensive selections you'd find at stores dedicated to a particular type of item, mind you -- consider that Kmart's entire toy section is about as large as the area Toys "R" Us has set aside for action figures alone -- but what they offer is good enough for most shoppers and the prices are hard to beat. The more specialized stores are having so much trouble remaining competitive in today's market for these very reasons.
But at least in our area -- perhaps due to the presence of more successful stores like Walmart and Target -- Kmart is sort of an endangered species. Oh, sure, you can still find the occasional Kmart in some forgotten corner of some crumbling town, but they're nowhere near as ubiquitous as they used to be. We used to have a Kmart here in Laurel, but (and thanks to this article for supplying a year; my memory's hardly this precise) it closed in 2002. Before it departed, as is common for stores going out of business, it had a massive sale: when you're vacating the premises and shipping is as expensive as it is, you want to have as little merchandise as possible to have to move. I haven't forgotten about the subject of the piece; here's where the regret part comes in.
Among the various toys being clearanced were My Pet Monster plush dolls.
Now, if you're a child of the 80s, you probably remember My Pet Monster. But you probably don't remember much about My Pet Monster, because there really wasn't a lot to remember. There was a 1987 cartoon that ran for a single 13-episode season, and there was a direct-to-video live action movie that no kid I knew ever saw. There was a toyline consisting of several plush dolls, but I knew maybe one kid who had one (and it wasn't the kind of thing that could compete with He-Man during play sessions). There were a handful of printed storybooks -- I know this because I had one; it was the sole piece of My Pet Monster merchandise that I owned. Really, the only reason I remember My Pet Monster so well is that the live-action movie trailer was included on the VHS tape of Madballs: Gross Jokes. As a child, I probably watched that cartoon four times a week for an entire year, which means I sat through the trailer for the My Pet Monster movie at least 208 times. (I'm not even counting the dozens of times I've watched the cartoon since buying the tape off Amazon in 2001. That trailer is seriously seared into my memory cells.) It honestly sounded kinda stupid to me then and now -- whereas the monster just kinda shows up in some kid's basement in the storybook, the stupid kid actually becomes the monster in the film... which is why I was never really interested in seeing it. A gruesome monster refugee from Monsterland is awesome; a nerdy kid who visits a museum and is perpetually hungry is a whole lot less so.
But despite my lack of familiarity with the property because of the lacking presence and popularity of the property, My Pet Monster remains a pretty strong reminder of my childhood -- and so I retain a pretty strong and favorable impression of the character. So, when ol' Monzie reappeared on store shelves in 2001, I was delighted to see the guy. And when I saw a shelf full of My Pet Monster dolls marked down to $10 each at that closing Kmart (see, that part was relevant), I was even more delighted.
And yet -- here's where the regret part comes in -- I didn't buy My Pet Monster. I left the thing sitting on the shelf, even during multiple visits to the closing store, and remained stubbornly resolute in my decision not to cradle Monzie in my arms until that Kmart finally shuttered its doors and mutated into Lowe's.
Why didn't I buy My Pet Monster? Good reasons, probably. It was $10, which might seem like a bargain for a 22" talking monster -- but this was back when Marvel Legends and the like retailed for $7-8 at normal price, and I was used to paying under $3 for clearance items. (That was also the summer that I flew to California for Anime Expo, so I was saving for that trip.) Moreover, I wasn't earnestly collecting toys at the time, so a toy had to be especially appealing for me to buy it -- and, as glad as I was to see it on shelves, an oversized plush doll wasn't something I really wanted to take home. As said, as much as I enjoy My Pet Monster for nostalgia's sake, I don't have any particular attachment to the property or deep knowledge of the character.
Even so, I've thought about my failure to purchase that blasted doll way too much over the past decade. I know well that, had I bought My Pet Monster, I'd have played with him for about a week. Sure, I'd have had great fun snapping his chains and cycling through his sayings dozens of times... but then, when our honeymoon was over, I'd have tossed him into my closet or onto the upper bunk of my bed and not have messed with him much thereafter. I know this because that's what I've done with nearly every other plush I've bought in recent years. Yet I continue to buy plush dolls on occasion, because I know that -- if I don't buy them -- I might find myself pining for them for years to come.
Clearly -- certainly -- not buying My Pet Monster is far from the worst thing that I've ever done. If you gave me time to take a long, hard look at my life and then gave me the opportunity to go back in time to make a different decision, I doubt that I'd land my TARDIS in the Laurel Lakes parking lot in the summer of 2002 and dash madly into the still-open Kmart in search of a stuffed monster toy wearing orange plastic handcuffs. But when I think of regrets, My Pet Monster is the first thing that pops into my ridiculous head.
Another thing? My lack of My Pet Monster is something I totally could have rectified in the intervening years. Okay, the eBay auctions for Monzie are kinda pricey at this moment -- but the thing was still sitting on store shelves (albeit for more than $10) when Kmart closed, and I've seen the doll (or a doll; I haven't kept track of which versions were for sale in particular auctions) go for very little at times. If I really wanted that My Pet Monster plush that badly, I could have gotten it. The truth is that I don't really want it. Oh, sure, I'd buy it on sight if I saw it that cheap again -- like I bought this wannabe when I found it on clearance for $1 some years back -- but I don't really need a My Pet Monster plush.
So why does my mind keep coming back to that blasted thing? I don't know -- but I think that, somewhere deep down, I do want a My Pet Monster toy. Maybe not the plush, but some tangible representation of My Pet Monster to add to my collection. It's probably the reason I got kinda excited when Shocker Toys showed that My Pet Monster Mallow figure some years ago (also Madballs; I love Madballs in any form), and why, despite knowing the company's reputation, I'd undoubtedly send my hard-earned money to Shocker -- or whatever the company's called now -- if it started taking preorders. And by "undoubtedly," I mean "never in a billion flipping years." But I'd want to. I'd feel the pull. Heck, I'm even feeling the pull when I look at the new Monsters University merchandise. I've never seen the original movie, but Sulley is blue and furry and has horns and something about that seems kinda familiar.
Maybe if I buy a Sulley figure, paint it a darker shade of blue, and sculpt it a tiny, warty nose... maybe then my mind will finally put this regret to bed.-- Wes --