When I was ten in 1969, Joe South released his classic, Games People Play. Being the introspective adolescent I was—have I ever stopped being her—the lyrics were concerning. People played games and that was a negative? How could that be?
I love playing games. LOVE, love, love to play games!
Growing up on Griffith Road with a slew of cousins and almost-cousins in close proximity, we always had enough for whatever sort of teams we created. Admittedly, I wasn’t very good at whiffle-, soft-, or baseball, but did okay at volley ball and badminton. Those games require coordination, which I lack, and aren’t the games I love. As my six-year-old nephew said to Dad after the kid tried to teach me PacMan, “Aunt RoseMary doesn’t get this.” No, not so much.
Give Me Multiple Decks of Playing Cards!
We were, thank you Mom, raised to play a variety of card games!
War—with battles that could last forever*, whizzed by. Legally slapping my siblings’ hands was fun.
Rummy—Mom taught us this game she loved and slaughtered her kids at will. Yes, seriously, she was merciless.
Crazy Eights—is there a anyone my age out there who didn’t play this or Old Maid** when you were kids?
We never learned cribbage, bridge, canasta, or the one I still want to learn Pinocle. Too complicated for us kids? They played with friends, so I’m not sure why we were left out of that deal.
Then There Were the Board Games!
Not the dreaded Monopoly*—too slow, too long, monopolizing my time. It made me not want to buy real estate, ever. I still hate this game. Counting money, those little plastic hotels that felt covered in dog slobber, going to jail—yech.
No, my beloved childhood games included:
Parchessi—still my number one favorite. As Jackie recently said, though, you have to agree before beginning that it’s okay to send your opponents back to start. Ruthless Mom, yes, but she raised us to be polite-players. We invariably find ourselves apologizing even as we zap our opponents. Stop that!
Yahtzee—Grandpa Griffith loved this game, enticing any grandkid he could into playing it with him. This one and …
Othello—see below for what I’m up to with this one. Sort of giving it a Go. The year (1971) it came out, Grandpa got hooked challenging many of us—and usually winning!
Scrabble—what wordsmith doesn’t enjoy Scrabble? Mom, ever unrelenting, taught us to play this one and beat us regularly. Trust me, we learned to be good losers because she didn’t hold back. A few years ago, I found a retro, 1949 version of Scrabble for Joanne—the only sister not to own it.
Chess—Not sure why Mom bought this for our brother and not the girls. Maybe because of Bobby Fisher winning the world championship in 1972? And of course, there weren’t any female chess players (ahem). Like there weren’t any working on the 1969 Apollo program, but I’m not bitter. Joe and I played and studied the rules and there we are with strategy again, but oh so agonizingly slow!
Stuffing My Closet With Games
In my decades of single hood, I stopped thinking of life in the future and started living in the now. Part of that was playing games with anyone willing to sit with me. Each Christmas—cracking up my parents—I bought a game, wrapped it, and put it under the tree. With my name on it. Making the purchase in the summer allowed me to hope that by December, I would forget which one it was. Who wants to feign surprise? Either way, during those last years I enjoyed Christmas with my parents, Mom found this hilarious.
Then there’s Clue. When did I fall in love with Clue? I have no—oh man, I can’t help myself this morning, can I?—clue! What I do know is that I’m on my third board. The first game got stashed at Jackie’s house when I left Montana. Board two was given to Joanne when I indulged in the box that came with LITTLE FIGURINES. How could I resist?
I love Clue so much that somehow during those long winter visits with Mom and Dad, Joanne and I talked them into playing. As you know, Mom was always up for a game. But Dad? Sitting still never really agreed with him. Until Clue and Uno Attack. He’d act reluctant to sit down with us … then he’d win! A lot. Dad, as Colonel Mustard, was Aces at figuring out whodunit. Mom as Miss Scarlett ran a close second with the deductions. Joanne, aka Professor Plum, and me aka Reverend Green often tied. (We had to pick characters wearing our favorite colors!)
After Dad’s ALS took away his speech, Joanne programmed his Dynavox (think Stephen Hawking) to play the Clue game with us. “Harry,” was great fun.
The College Games
In college, there came the requisite learning, but never perfecting, Backgammon. I’m still not very good at it and still like to play. Strategic games attract my attention (more than those requiring coordination) and this should be a key one. But alas, I don’t quite get it.
Trivial Pursuit was released the year I graduated and how I loved pursuing all that trivia knowledge. (Honestly, I just can’t stop today!) I’m over it, though, so maybe it should find a new home. Any takers? I even bought the box of cards for the 1970s. Those are a blast to pull out every so often and test my aging memory. (Here’s your trivia question. What favorite movie of 1974 contains this line: “You must be E-gor. No, it’s pronounced I-gor.” If you don’t know, go find out and watch it. Wilder, Kahn, Leachman, Feldman, Garr—hint, hint. It is still hilarious.
More Recently, I Discovered
Train Dominoes—as kids, Grandpa tried to get us interested in Dominoes, but the poor fellow didn’t succeed. What was it about the game that didn’t attract us? I can’t think of a reason. But when Jackie introduced me to Train Dominoes a decade ago, I was hooked. Still am. My friend Carol likes to play and pre-Covid, we’d setup a game now and then. What’s better than friendship over a game with a glass of wine and birds or crickets through the open door?
A Childhood Game I Resumed Playing Several Years Ago
Solitaire—This post explains the importance of kids learning to play real, physical games rather than computer ones. This adult taxes her brain with Klondike. I like that it is tactile, taking me away from words and computers, and is—after all—successfully played alone. With Covid-19 still blocking too many get togethers as we await vaccination, my game-playing enjoyment stagnates. (No, that man I live with will not play board games with me.) I’m bored out of my gourd, but most games take two to tango and that isn’t (I have to) in the cards.
Card playing also works well with the new addiction from last month’s newsletter: podcasts. (If you haven’t discovered Welsh True Crime Enthusiast, please check him out.)
What Games Are You Playing
Games teach us so much from being a good sport when winning or losing, and to thinking strategically. Some of us learn eye-hand coordination, even when they don’t manage PacMan.
On board (there I go again, but how can I resist?) this spring, I’m learning Go. This is the original version of Othello. Had Grandpa known about Go, I think he and I would have been all over this game. I’ve had the board for twenty years, but found it intimidating. Like trying to conquer Mah Jong in person. In lockdown is there a better way to challenge my brain than to learn the strategy of Go? It’s simple and complex at the same time and I want to go ahead with learning it.
Ha ha, I see more than one friend saying, Stop with the Go already, RM.
(Then there’s croquet….)