15 MIN

What’s your earliest memory? No, really. Humor me and take a second to think about it. Is it with your family? Maybe a trip to the beach? Did you think you were an extra in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because nobody explicitly told you that you weren’t?

I remember dancing on a dresser with sunglasses on (I was wearing them, not the dresser) around age three. I can’t quite remember the context other than trying to ham it up for the family. Which, if we’re being totally honest, is still an active pursuit to this day.

Dancing on a dresser is the first thing I remember doing in my life.

I remember learning to ride a bike in 30 seconds at age five. I remember trying to sneak some rocks home from a family reunion in Lake Tahoe because "if I painted them gold they would be worth something big".

At six, to complete my "magician" costume for the school Halloween dress up contest, my dad drew a mustache on me with my mom’s mascara. The kids at school told me they really liked it, but I thought they had all met with each other beforehand to practice their messaging and make "the lie" believable. I attempted to smear the mustache off in the bathroom but my mother sprang for the waterproof mascara flavor and it looked like I had just fired a cartoon canon, leaving my face covered in soot from the recoil. I eventually went home "sick" with a self-diagnosed "gut illness".

At age seven, I thought about death for the first time.


Growing up in the Mormon faith, the church (and many other Christian religions) did a bang up job teaching children how temporary this life and their bodies were. How there was a master plan that, when you died (assuming you lived the life you were instructed to), you’d be welcomed with open arms to a place unimaginably better than where you were right then. Many people find comfort in messages like that, in all types of religions, not just the one I grew up in.

For me, not so much. Unsurprisingly, as a child, it made me feel a bit sick, the gravity of it all. I’d picture this void of nothingness. An empty room. Space. I’d try my hardest to fill it with palm trees and sunsets. I’d seen it pictured, these descriptions of Heaven, as a paradise. So why couldn’t I see it? Why was it just… nothing?

That same year, at the height of toys and goodies being shipped within cereal boxes, my siblings and I cracked open a fresh Crunch Berries to find some of the best marketing of the early 2000’s: Cap’n Crunch’s Crunchling Adventure. A computer game centered on growing and raising a small, furry creatures, aptly named Crunchlings, to adulthood through various physical challenges (jumping, riding a skateboard, throwing things into a volcano), all to defeat The Crunchium Thief.

This was all, of course, a ploy to get children to beg their parents for more Cap’n Crunch. It was a McDonald’s Happy Meal. It was collectible Pez dispensers. It was HitClips. Well, it’s not actually close to HitClips at all but I wanted to bring them up because remember when kids would spend multiple dollars on a 30 second clip of a Top 40 song and only be able to listen to it with one ear? Wild. Continuing with the Happy Meal line of thinking, the only way your Crunchling would grow in game was to feed it, you guessed it, Crunch Berries.

I think, even back then, my siblings and I knew what the true angle of the game was. We weren’t naive. But goddamn did they make a multi-faceted, action-packed, barn burner of a free cereal box CD. We were hooked.


We spent days playing Crunchling Adventure. Weeks, even. We were, rightfully so, forced to take turns raising our Crunchlings on the communal Gateway desktop. Hours between plays felt like an eternity.

There were color customizations and repeatable courses, all with the promise of a new high score. There were different flavors of crunch berries you could feed your Crunchling. There were secrets in the skateboarding level. New ways to throw lava rocks. Cap’n Crunch would drop in every so often and share some of his wisdom. I repeat: The blue guy with the white mustache from the cereal box would bestow his knowledge upon you.

It was a cereal-themed Sims knockoff, but it gave my siblings and I weeks of fun. Of course, time passed and those days of entertainment with the Cap’n became few and far between. Inevitably, Our interests changed. New games came out. Actual games from studios not in the cereal business. I discovered Zelda. The Cap’n Crunch’s Crunchling Adventure cd-rom would eventually be retired to the shelf, collecting dust.

We weren't naive.

I’ve been thinking about those Crunchlings lately. Not a lot, but more than any other time since I was seven. It doesn’t keep me up at night, but that seems to be when I think about these things. Why did I like that game so much? What kind of a life did a Crunchling have outside of the activities I assisted them with? Can a Crunchling skateboard themselves to death?

One question lingered longer than the others: How many generations had passed since I so callously abandoned my Crunchlings?

Well, I sat down and did the math.

On average, to the best of my recollection, I could birth, feed, nurture, raise, grow, and subsequently move onto a new Crunchling in about two real life days. Now, the game wouldn’t let you see your Crunchling on their deathbed and I think that’s a net positive. Confronting Crunchling dementia while I was in the first grade would have short circuited my brain. All of this to say: You leave your Crunchling in what looks like a healthy middle age. Given the ability to raise and nurture them to the end, that would have most likely taken four days.

I’m 28 now. It’s been close to 21 years since I stopped playing Cap’n Crunch’s Crunchling Adventure. I’m rounding to my birthday in each calculation and subtracting the five month difference until my 29th birthday. I’m also adding in five additional days due to leap years in the past two decades. That leaves us with 7,520 days.

We must also consider the mating habits of Crunchlings. My belief (which is backed up by absolutely nothing) is that Crunchlings can begin to produce offspring within 2.5 human Earth days. This would give the parents of the offspring time to raise, nurture, feed, and train their own Crunchlings (in my omnipotent absence) to ensure the lineage progresses.

Dividing the time since I’ve played (7,520 days) by the time it takes to establish a new generation (on average) of Crunchlings (2.5 days), we are left with 3,008. 3,008 generations of Crunchlings.


What technological breakthroughs did they experience in this time? What medical advances made their way into the minds and four fingered hands of these Crunchlings? Could cereal politics have influenced Crunchling government mandated birthing requirements?

3,008 generations of love and loss. 3,008 generations of heartbreak and happiness. Millenia (to them) of discovery, hope, lust, fear, and hunger. Hunger for something greater than themselves. Would the game be the same if I were to boot it up today? Would they still want to jump endlessly? Throw rocks into lava and skateboard through a carnival? Was there still an innate hostility toward The Crunchium Thief? Was Crunchium a resource they still shed Crunchling blood (milk) over?

Or would it be different? Would a Crunchling smile back at me behind their "Oops! All Berries" branded deep space molecular communication goggles? Would they think the same things about me? My lineage?

Does their life mean any less than mine? Do they sit and ponder on the finality of it all as well?

Humans have a funny way of talking about, describing, and confronting death. Sometimes, it’s a black void. Like how I saw it as a kid. Sometimes, it’s beautiful. The back cover to a well-worn novel. Other times, springs of water flowing endlessly in the clouds. And there’s beauty in that as well.

I guess now we can add calculating the current Crunchling generation to that list.