All in good fun of course.

You know that wedding song, Whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name, there is love.” At our house, it’s “Whenever two or more of you are gathered in a room, there are games.”

Board games, card games, word games, sports games, outdoor games (even Jarts…don’t tell) — we’re a family of players. We come by it honestly, from my mother’s side. Card playing especially. My great-grandmother, grandparents, and great aunts & uncles were all card players — mostly a game called 500 (something like Bridge). I started early, with Gram patiently teaching me Crazy 8s or Rum, playing through the bars of my crib when I was sick in bed one time (no kidding, I was 3 or 4 — too old to still be in a crib, but I shared a room with two of my sisters and beds were at a premium). To us, playing is like breathing. At 89, my mother still plays cards with “the girls” at least twice a week. And she can still beat me at Scrabble (as can any of my siblings). So much for being the wordsmith of the family.

In my experience, a family either plays games or it doesn’t. You are either a player or you’re not. My dad married into a card-playing family, fathered 7 little players, endured 50 years around us, and never succumbed. He was probably thrilled that we were all out of the way so often and he could lie on the couch in peace.

Non-game-playing guests/spouses/significant others get that uneasy “Oh God, here they go again” look in their eyes when we start to clear the table. The excuses fly: “This is my favorite episode of Bonanza. You go ahead.” Or they feign napping. Or yesterday’s newspaper becomes fascinating reading. The smart ones learn to ask before even coming, “There won’t be any games, will there?” Pity the uninitiated or weak, whom we lure in like lambs: “It’s OK, we play teams. You can be on my team. We’ll play a few practice rounds. It’s easy. You can go first. Here, have a drink.”

The drink usually gets them to the table if nothing else.

It can get a little cutthroat at times — all in good fun of course. Be prepared to get the Jeopardy theme hummed at you if you take too long. Never lead your 10s in 66 or trump your partner’s trick in 500. And expect a lifetime of ridicule — all in good fun of course — if you stumble like this (you know who you are): 

Clue given: “I don’t know who this is, but he’s Chinese.”
Answer clue was supposed to elicit: Robert E. Lee.

Clue given: “Goldilocks and the Three…”
Answer clue was supposed to elicit: Bears (leading to Bear Bryant).
Answer given: “Stooges!?” (in such a hopeful voice).

Clue given: “kenTUCKY” (rising intonation that indicates “opposite” in Password)
Answer clue was supposed to elicit: Tennessee

I can’t begin to count the hours we’ve spent (or the calories we’ve consumed) sitting around the table playing, kibitzing, drinking, munching, and laughing endlessly. It’s the beauty of being part of a big family — there’s always someone to play with. So if you’re a player, or think you could be, come on over. We love new blood. All in good fun of course.

We do not stop playing because we grow old.
We grow old because we stop playing.
                                               ~ Anonymous

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