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Growing Up With Cards and Games
Summer and games go together for me.
When I was a child, my family had a cottage on a small lake in Northern Minnesota. It lacked both electricity and plumbing, which was fine with me; I liked the feeling of camping but still having a comfortable bed to sleep at night. The only downside was an outhouse that was half a block from the cottage and not a fun trip at night. My mother solved this by creating a “honey pot” that we all used at night and one of us emptied in the morning (although I suspect my mother was done with the job most of the time).
In the evening, our light came from kerosene lamps and a large brick fireplace. After my father, mother, brother and I came from evening fishing (or on a rainy day), we played card games in front of the fireplace; kerosene lamps hanging above to light the small table in the middle. We played gin rummy, 500 rummy and schmier, a game I remember as being a bit like bridge. (If anyone knows how to play smear please contact me as I need a tutorial!) I especially loved gin rummy and won more than my share of games but I usually couldn’t beat my dad. Looking back, I’m not sure who was better; the card games or the quiet evenings with family. However, I grew up treasuring both.
At some point, we added Monopoly to the list but I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with that game. If you win, it’s great. Your houses lined the board and the stack of money in front of you grew larger every time someone rolled the dice and landed on your property. But if you missed out on buying the best properties, each roll of the dice put you more and more in debt – maybe a bit like real life! I couldn’t handle the slide into poverty and was usually very relieved when I lost all my money and could quit the game.
Of course, Scrabble was always a favorite but, as the youngest, I was somewhat handicapped by my vocabulary. At that time I didn’t know about short words like Qi. Xu, Qua and Za who fit into small spaces and scored a lot of points. Today I play Scrabble every day online with friends and use these words regularly even though I have to admit I still don’t know what they mean.
In college, I was introduced to Bridge. I watched friends play; listening to their offerings and studying their plays. When I met Barry, my future husband, I had only played a few times. After we got engaged, he and I were invited to dinner and a game of bridge at one of his married friend’s houses. I was nervous and felt like a child; these couples were four or five years older than me and actually lived in houses, rather than dormitories. By the end of the evening, I felt more confident and felt that my bridge playing was pretty good. As soon as we were in the car, Barry turned to me and said, “Never, ever bid a three-card suit!” He still married me and even taught me how to propose the right way.
For several years, we played party bridge with twelve friends who were mostly at the same level as us. Each of us rotated around three tables and different partners. However, there was one man in the group who took the game very seriously. Being his partner meant opening yourself up to four hands of verbal abuse. I didn’t say anything at the time but this older and wiser version of myself wouldn’t keep her mouth shut!
Once (and only once) I played duplicate bridge. We were living on a military base in Japan at the time and a friend asked me to replace her in a once-a-week double bridge game while she was off to have a baby. By that time, my bridge game had improved a lot and I immediately said yes. But I soon learned that this game has very little in common with party bridge. The room was deathly quiet, interrupted only by the sounds of quiet offerings at each table. The emphasis was on each hand and the score cards were kept carefully. Also, the hands were carefully replaced for the next player.
After we finished playing all the hands, everyone gathered around to see where he or she landed on the point list. I was second to last, with only a few more points than a ninety-year-old woman who had dementia. The game was only two hours but it felt like eight. When I got home, I had a terrible headache. When Barry walked in the door, I was lying on the couch, an ice pack on my head and a glass of wine and a bottle of aspirin on the table next to me.
When our children came along, we both spent hours playing children’s games like Candy Land, Old Maid, Go Fish and Chutes and Ladders. Although those games disappeared as our children grew up, our toy closet is now filled with all of them, awaiting our granddaughter’s next visit. I find it more fun to play the games this time than I did when our kids were young. I’m quite sure the reason for this is because we can enjoy playing with our grandchild without the anxieties that came with raising our own children. Grandchildren are just fun!
With the advent of computers, we can also play many games online. As I mentioned before, I play at least ten games of Scrabble with friends and family but these move slowly with only one move by each player in a day. In addition, I am addicted to the Microsoft Solitaire Collection which includes a daily challenge in five different solitaire games. You collect points that grow every day until (hopefully) you reach the golden bell before the end of the month when the scoring starts again. If you miss a few days, you fall behind on your games. Catching up can be fun if you don’t mind a marathon day (or two) of computer games. And this is where the addiction begins!
Since we live in Florida, we have been introduced to two new games that we play with friends. The first is Rummikub, a board game that is very similar to 500 rummy. Barry and I play with three friends every couple of months and we usually lose. One friend has been playing this game for years with a group in her hometown. They play for money, one penny a point and she would like us to do this too. I’d love it if either Barry or I won at some point but at the rate we’re going right now, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
The other game we play with friends in our neighborhood is Mexican Train, a domino game. The strategy is fun but the best part of this game is pushing the button in the middle of the plastic train that emits a loud, “Choo cho, choo cho.” Of course, to be allowed to press the button you have to win the game first and, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen to me very often. So sometimes I cheat and push the button for fun.
As you may have already guessed, I don’t seem to win very often. However, I decided that for me winning is not the goal of the game. Of course I’d rather win than lose, but since that’s not in “the cards”, I focus on other things, like strategy, doing tricks, combining the right numbers and adding up all the points I have left with that one. otherwise get! I also tell myself that playing games should be good for your mind. But the best part of playing is spending time with good friends, eating delicious food and building beautiful memories in this phase of my life.
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