Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Game Night

While the rest of the world read Harry Potter, Dad, Lou and I played a few games.

On this particular evening, I won the game of Upwords. But that's a rare feat. So rare, in fact, that it warranted a photo.

Normally, Dad wins the word games -- unless his sister Ulli is also playing, in which case she often wins, touching off some old-people sibling rivalry that can only be described as cute. And the notable thing there is that neither Dad nor Ulli are native American speakers!

I haven't played games with Lou enough to size her up quite yet, but based on her skill last night, I'd say she's a definite contender with Dad and I'm sure they have many a joyous -- and playfully competitive -- game nights.

If the game involves numbers, like Rummy, there's no predictable winner -- although Mom played a mean game. Two weeks before Mom died, she told me that she couldn't make sense of Rummy anymore, and that's when I knew that she was really slipping. I can still hear her voice, when she couldn't make a good play: "Scheiss spiel!" she'd exclaim -- and then she'd suddenly discover a move and rack up a gazillion points, smirking her trademark smirk (which Kat has inherited) as Dad noted the score on his neat and tidy score sheet.

My parents loved to play board games with their grandchildren almost as much as their grandchildren loved playing with them, and every time we'd get together, the evenings would be spent around their large round table or our large rectangular one, huddled around letter or number tiles (Upwords and Rummy) or little silver do-dads, like thimbles, race cars and wheelbarrows (Monopoly). Dad always infused education where ever possible, teaching the kids strategy, addition, spelling, and any other lesson that could be squeezed out of the evening.

Elisabeth always caught on quickly and was hooked on each new game, begging another round, another hand, another hour. And whereas I'm sure Dad allowed her to win in the beginning, even when she was four she stole some games from everyone!

Aleks learned to be cunning. During one game of Monopoly with the his grandparents, cousins and a few aunts and uncles, Aleks rolled a few doubles in a row. He was thrilled, of course, but decided to turn it into a business venture. At six (six!), Aleks came up with his first marketing ploy: "For two bucks I'll roll your dice for you!" he offered. "You saw how lucky I am! Just pay me and I'll be lucky for YOU!" And amazingly enough (or not amazing at all, really), my brother, my father and a variety of others each payed Aleks $2. Because, you know, he was just that cute. I'm sure that somehow formed the basis to actions like this one, 11 years later.

I miss game night with Omi and Opa and a bunch of eager little kidlets, warding off bedtime, connecting with their adored grandparents, and learning skills that they probably use more than some they've learned in the classroom.

But time does pass, and people do die... and grow up... and move on. Memories form and settle in and nudge us every once in a while, bringing both happiness and sadness in the realization that it's now all but a memory.

Still, playing Upwords with Dad and Lou was wonderfully fun, even without children around, and even without Mom. I realized, as Lou sweetly suggested a particularly useful move I could make, that new memories are emerging now, and that these memories, like the ones I hold so dear, are formed around and filled with love of a new and different kind.

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Anonymous said...

Who would think such lovely memories are held in a simple gameboard? That was just lovely...

Dixie said...

I love playing games with my family as well. Board games or card games - didn't matter. Anything except for word games. I am a terrible Scrabble player so I never wanted to play those.

But I'll take you to the cleaners playing Monopoly.

Betsy said...

Great post!

I have a lot of fond memories of playing Rummy and Boggle with my Grandparents. Especially with my Grandma who was a card shark!

S and B are finally old enough now to play board and card games and I'm rediscovering the pleasure of these marathon sessions.

You're right, though, about the different dynamic. As much as I enjoy playing with S and B I'd give just about anything to have another round with my Grandma! Just one! And I bet she'd still beat the socks off of me!

Dazd said...

A very nice post. It brought back a flood of memories for me as well.

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