Growing up with cards and games

Summer and games go hand in hand for me.

When I was a child, my family had a cabin on a small lake in northern Minnesota. It lacked electricity and plumbing, which was fine by me; I liked the feeling of camping but still having a comfortable bed to sleep in at night. The only downside was an outhouse that was half a block from the cabin and it wasn’t 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 finished work more often).

At night, our light came from kerosene lamps and a large brick fireplace. After my father, my mother, my brother and I arrived from fishing at sunset (or on a rainy day), we played cards in front of the fireplace; kerosene lamps hanging from the ceiling to illuminate the small table in the middle. We played gin rummy, 500 rummy and schmier, a game that I remember as something akin to bridge. (If anyone knows how to play libel, please contact me because I need a tutorial!) I especially loved gin rummy and won more games than my share, but usually I couldn’t beat my dad. Looking back, I’m not sure which one was better; card games or quiet family afternoons. However, I grew up treasuring both.

At some point, we added Monopoly to the list, but I always had a love / hate relationship with that game. If you are winning, it is great. Your houses lined the board and the pile of money in front of you grew 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 will put you in more and more debt, maybe a bit like in real life! I couldn’t bear the slide into poverty and was generally very relieved when I lost all my money and was able to quit gambling.

Of course, Scrabble was always one of my favorites but, as the youngest, I was a bit handicapped by my vocabulary. At that time, he didn’t know about short words like Qi. Xu, Qua and Za who fit into tight spaces and won a lot of points. Today I play Scrabble online with friends every day and use these words regularly, although I must admit that I still have no idea what they mean.

In college, I met Bridge. I saw my friends play; 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 the home of one of his married friends. 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 bedrooms. By the end of the night, I felt more confident and felt that my bridge game had been quite good. As soon as we were in the car, Barry turned to me and said, “Never, never offer a three-card suit!” He married me anyway and even taught me how to push the right way.

For several years, we played party bridge with twelve friends who were, for the most part, on the same level as us. Each of us rotates 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 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 its mouth shut!

Once (and only once) I played double bridge. We were living on a military base in Japan at the time and a friend asked me to substitute for her in a duplicate game of bridge once a week while she stopped having a baby. By this time, my bridge game had improved enormously 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, interrupted only by the sounds of silent offerings at each table. The emphasis was on each hand and the scorecards were meticulously maintained. Also, the hands were carefully replaced for the next player.

After we finished playing all the hands, everyone gathered to see where it had fallen on the points list. I was second to last, only a few points higher than a ninety-year-old woman with dementia. The game lasted only two hours, but it seemed like eight. When I got home, I had a terrible headache. When Barry walked through the door, I was lying on the couch, with an ice pack on my head and a glass of wine and a bottle of aspirin on the table next to me.

When our kids 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, looking forward to our granddaughter’s next visit. I find it more fun to play games this time than when our children were little. I’m pretty sure the reason for this is because we can enjoy playing with our grandchild without the anxieties that come with raising our own children. Grandkids 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 Scrabble games with friends and family, but these move slowly with only one move from each player in a day. Also, I am addicted to the Microsoft Solitaire Collection, which includes a daily challenge in five different solitaire games. Collect points that grow daily until (hopefully) he reaches the golden bell at the end of the month when scoring starts again. If you miss a few days, you fall behind in your games. Catching up can be fun if you don’t mind a marathon (or two) days of computer games. And this is where addiction begins!

Since we lived in Florida, we were introduced to two new games that we played with friends. The first is Rummikub, a board game that looks a lot like 500 rummy. Barry and I play with three friends every two 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 willing if Barry or I won every once in a while, but at the rate we’re going now, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

The other game we play with friends in our neighborhood is 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 emits a loud “Choo cho, choo cho”. Of course, in order to hit 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, for me, winning is not the point 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, matching the correct numbers, and adding up all the points. more get! I also tell myself that playing games is supposed to be good for your mind. But the best part of games is spending time with good friends, eating delicious food, and creating lovely memories at this time in my life.
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