It’s all about playing games

When I was a kid, my family played board games, though not often. Mostly we played outside—building forts in trees and in the hay, and we spent a great deal of time catching frogs.
There were a few marathons of “Monopoly,” where I never seemed to be much of a land baron, getting stuck with the likes of Baltic Avenue, earning a pittance in rent, and someone always lost interest, wandering off before the game was won.
I enjoyed being the banker and handling all that cash. And even though I knew it was play money, it did give me a relative sense of power (being the youngest of three, I often needed that to restore my faith in civilization—and it may have cultivated my interest in becoming an accountant).
“Monopoly” has been around since 1935 and you have to admire that staying power.
The three of us (siblings) also played “Sorry,” but I don’t recall my brother ever being sorry for winning and I’m slightly suspicious now that some serious cheating went on.
No one has a track record of winning like he did, unless you’re Lance Armstrong (I know, low blow).
We had a “Scrabble” board, too, but I was more inclined to use the wooden tiles as my herd of wild horses (just about anything that was small and uniform was used for horses, such as marbles, buttons, etc).
The tiles were kept in a purple velvet bag with gold letters that spelled Crown Royal and it seemed to me quite exotic at the time.
I like playing “Scrabble” now, though as I age my vocabulary is shrinking, which is not a good ailment for a writer. And I still have that Crown Royal bag.
“Scrabble,” by the way, hit the shelves in 1938.
My grandfather and I played “Checkers.” I think he may have thrown the game a few times, though, as I seem to remember a winning streak on my part that now doesn’t seem all that legitimate.
“Checkers,” or a version thereof, has been around since 3000 B.C. when the Egyptians created some after-dinner fun, but it was later patented in England in 1756; an impressive history to say the least.
But the best games of all were the card games played at my Aunt Irene’s. Saturday night was the trip to town to my aunt’s house and after dinner it always meant a game of cards.
She taught us to play “Canasta” before I could add proficiently. There also was “Pass The Ace,” “Spoons,” “Hearts,” “Spades,” and “Bug Your Neighbour.” The kids often played “Fish” and “Old Maid” (that seemed very sexist to me and I wondered why we didn’t play “Stinky Old Bachelor” instead).
Suffice to say, the time spent around the table was deliciously fun and the conversation was inclusive; it wasn’t the adults talking over our heads. Inside the laughter was truly a sense of belonging to something larger than ourselves.
It was a tradition I cherished right alongside watching “The Wizard of Oz” on her television every November and being so scared that I vowed never to watch it again. But the next November rolled around and . . . well, you know the drill.
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.
Board games have returned to my life now with great fun. Aimee is the board game queen in our family and she beats us soundly at “Cranium” when we play and just about every other game; we don’t stand a chance.
We play a game called “Things” that we love so much. But as the evening wears on, all our answers sound the same and we end up doing more laughing than anything else.
Snakes seems to be a common theme.
We play board games now with our friends, “Dominoes” being the big hit, and though I may be bragging, I have stood in the winner’s circle with considerable regularity (but I’m sad to say, no prize money).
The trick is to fly below the radar; win quietly and they never see you coming.
But with all my success with “Dominoes,” I just cannot seem to beat that darn David at “Cribbage.”
I’ll keep trying. Wish me luck.
wendistewart@live.ca

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