Summer and games go together for me.
When I was a kid, my family had a farm house 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 in at night. The only drawback was an outhouse that was half a block from the cabin and not a fun ride 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 ended up with work more often).
At night, our light came from kerosene lamps and a large brick fireplace. After my father, mother, brother, and I returned from fishing at night (or on a rainy day), we played cards in front of the fireplace; kerosene lamps hung high above to illuminate the small table in the middle. We played gin rummy, 500 rummy and schmier, a game that I remember looked a bit like bridge. (If anyone knows how to play smear, please contact me because I need a tutorial!) I especially loved gin rummy and won more than my fair share in games, but usually couldn’t beat my dad. Looking back, I’m not sure which was better; card games or quiet family evenings. 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’re winning, that’s great. Your houses lined up on the board and the pile of money in front of you got bigger every time someone shook the dice and landed on your property. But if you missed out on buying the best properties, each roll of the dice put you deeper and deeper into debt, perhaps a bit like real life! I couldn’t handle falling into poverty and was usually very relieved when I lost all my money and was able to quit gambling.
Of course, Scrabble was always my favourite, but, as the youngest, my vocabulary held me back a bit. At that time, he did not know about short words like Qi. Xu, Qua and Za who fit into small spaces and won a lot of points. Today I play Scrabble every day online with friends and use these words regularly, although I must admit I still have no idea what they mean.
In college, I was introduced to Bridge. I saw friends playing; listening to their offers and studying their plays. When I met Barry, my future husband, he had only played a few times. After we got engaged, he and I were invited to dinner and play bridge at one of his married friends’ homes. He was nervous and I felt like a child; these couples were four or five years older than me and actually lived in houses, rather than bedrooms. By the end of the night, I was feeling more confident and felt that my bridge game had been pretty good. As soon as we were in the car, Barry turned to me and said, “Never, ever give up a three-card suit!” He married me anyway and even taught me how to make an offer the right way.
For several years, we played party bridge with twelve friends, most of whom were on 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 mate meant opening herself up to four hands of verbal abuse. I didn’t say anything at the time, but this older, wiser version of myself wouldn’t have kept my mouth shut!
Once (and only once) I played duplicate bridge. We were living on an army base in Japan at the time and a friend asked me to fill in for her in a duplicate game of bridge once a week while she was having a baby. By this time my bridge game had improved tremendously and I immediately said yes. But I soon discovered that this game had very little in common with party bridge. The room was deathly silent, broken only by the sounds of silent bidding at each table. The emphasis was on each hand and the scorecards were meticulously maintained. Also, hands were carefully replaced for the next player.
After we finished playing all the hands, everyone got together to see where he was on the points list. I was penultimate, just a few points better than a ninety-year-old woman with dementia. The game was only two hours long, but it felt like eight. When I got home, I had a terrible headache. When Barry walked through 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 beside me.
When our children arrived, we both spent hours playing children’s games like Candy Land, Old Maid, Go Fish, and Chutes and Ladders. Although those games disappeared when our children grew up, our game closet is now restocked with all of them, awaiting our granddaughter’s next visit. I find it more fun to play the games this time than when our kids were little. I’m pretty sure the reason for this is that we can enjoy playing with our grandson without the anxieties that came with raising our own children. Grandchildren are just plain 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 are slow moving with only one move from each player in a day. Also, I’m addicted to the Microsoft Solitaire Collection, which includes a daily challenge in five different solitaire games. You accumulate points that grow daily until you (hopefully) hit the golden bell at the end of the month, when scoring starts all over 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 gaming. And this is where the addiction begins!
Since we’ve lived in Florida, we’ve been introduced to two new games that we play with friends. The first is Rummikub, a board game that is a lot like 500 rummy. Barry and I play with three friends every couple of months and we usually lose. A friend has been playing this game for years with a group in her hometown. They play for money, a penny a point and she would like us to do this too. I’d be up for it if Barry or I won from time to time, but at the rate we’re going now, that’s not going to happen any time soon.
The other game we play with friends in our neighborhood is the Mexican Train, a game of dominoes. The strategy is fun, but the best part of this game is pressing the button in the middle of the plastic train that makes a loud “Choo cho, choo cho.” Of course, in order to press the button, you have to win the game first, and unfortunately that doesn’t happen to me very often. So every now and then I cheat and hit the button for fun.
As you may have already guessed, it doesn’t seem like I win very often. However, I have decided that winning is not the point of the game for me. 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, matching the right numbers and scoring all the points. I stay with that someone. more get! I also tell myself that gaming is supposed to be good for the mind. But the best part of playing games is spending time with good friends, eating delicious food, and building lovely memories at this stage of my life.
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