The Games People Play

Very often, when we have dinner at the home of Bill’s son Dave and his wife Jll, following dinner, someone will bring out a board game. Or perhaps it will be a deck of cards with an invitation to play Hearts. They are a game-playing family.

I grew up in a household that didn’t play many games. I think we had a Monopoly game that someone might drag out of the closet biennially, blow off the dust from the box, and dibs the top hat. One or two of us might have grudgingly agreed to play along. Inevitably, one of us would get bored about 35 minutes into the game.

On occasion, one of us might challenge another to a game of gin rummy. My mother taught me to play the game. However, if I ever took too long switching my cards around into sets of runs or threes-of-a-kind, I got the evil eye. She would compare me to the character Billie Dawn (played brilliantly by Judy Holliday) in the 1950 movie Born Yesterday. If you’ve got four minutes to spare, it’s worth clicking on the link. I guarantee it will make you laugh. My mother could never announce that she had “Gin,” without doing it in the squeaky voice of Judy Holliday’s character.

My dad taught all of his children how to play Cribbage. I was never very good, and I didn’t really like the game all that much. I’m not very good at doing addition in my head, and I felt silly counting on my fingers. I don’t need a game to remind me that I hate math. Plus, I’m pretty sure my dad cheated. God rest his soul.

I never learned to play Bridge, but I always envied the women playing the card game in the living room of my sorority house. They looked so grown up and smart. One card game I always thought I’d like to learn to play is Pinochle. My grandfather played Pinochle. After Sunday dinners, the card deck would come out and my dad and his sisters and brothers-in-law would commence playing. I can’t remember if Mom ever played along. I’m sure I could find someone to teach me, but I have very little doubt I would quit after 35 minutes.

For reasons I can’t explain, neither my parents or any of their children were/are very competitive. Strangely, we all married into very competitive families. Perhaps that’s because most people — being citizens of the United States of America — are competitive. Whatever it takes to win.

Bill and his children excel at trivia games. One night very long ago, Bill and I played Trivial Pursuit. We were on opposite teams. I have a vivid recollection of him pulling one of the cards and making a show of saying, “Oh My God. This is soooo easy.” The question was who was president of France during the Cold War. After Bill’s pronouncement, there was no way in hell that I would be able to pull up the name Charles de Gaulle out of my already-ticked-off brain.

Bill and I no longer join in games, reindeer or otherwise.

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