I have vague memories of board games as a kid. Endless, I’m sure, games of snakes and ladders. The roar of the Chinese checkers game in its metal tin on a Saturday morning … when we were supposed to be quiet so Mom and Dad could sleep in. Checkers and chess. Horribly unfair games of Monopoly where my sister made up the rules to suit her, oh how I hated that game. Clue and 221B Baker St (do I have that name right?) on Sunday evenings at the kitchen table. We played cards too – hearts was a big one.
But there was this mystery game. It had a board, and pegs you moved, but no dice; a card game board game! Nana and Grandad played it avidly, and Mom and Dad joined in. They called it “Crib,” short for Cribbage.
I don’t remember how old I was when Grandad figured Tasha and I were old enough to learn how to play. Addition, I think, was still relatively new to me. I can remember not being sure what seven plus five was. Tasha soon lost interest, as she always did with card games, and turned on the television. I still remember that, as I was distracted, and Grandad firmly said, “Are you playing cards, or are you watching TV? You can’t do both.” At the time it sounded horribly strict, but I focused. Cards. Seven and eight add up to fifteen. So do nine and six. A double run of three is three plus three plus a pair makes eight – can you count fifteens in there? My brain struggled with this, and couldn’t quite add quickly enough. Yet.
Soon I had the hang of it. Soon I could play with the adults and hold my own, even win without help! Big scoring hands appeared in the cards; luck was consistently mine. I didn’t have to even think about what cards to toss to the crib after a little while and a lot of coaching. Never toss this and this when it’s not your crib, except here. Keep this pattern, it’s a good chance to turn into that. What cards to hold on to if you need to get across the finish line before your opponent counts his hand.
Once I moved out west and visited with Nana and Grandad a lot on my own, we played crib almost every evening. Sometimes it was right after supper, sometimes we’d wait and watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune first. Then the crib board would come out, we’d get something to drink, and settle down.
Grandad had pet sayings. “Fifteen two, fifteen four, and there ain’t no more,” was a common one. Even once his memory started failing, he could manage a game or two without too many problems. He might have been in a fog all supper, or cantankerous all afternoon, but with the cards in his hand and the familiar pattern started, he was able to play for a long time into Alzheimers. His face changed slowly into the mask of the disease, but now and then his eyes would twinkle and he’d smile his old smile as he counted up the cards. Who cared if he didn’t really have a double run? The holes the pegs counted didn’t matter.
Later it was just me and Nana playing. We would still jokingly say Grandad’s sayings, and his presence was missed. The games became reminiscing sessions – not so much about Grandad, but just about life. It was during these games that I learned much about Nana’s childhood, her schooling and time teaching, what life was like as an air force wife, what Mom and Betty were like as kids. I really miss playing with her. We stopped as it got harder and harder for her to play, and I have Cameron. Now after supper, Nana’s still finishing, Cameron has his bath and I put him to bed. By that time Nana’s wiped right out, and is ready to sleep.
I don’t believe in ghosts. I find it nearly impossible to believe in someone’s spirit ‘hovering’. But ever since the day Cameron was born I’ve had reason to think that Grandad is right there. There were times that newborn Cameron would focus his eyes over my shoulder and go from screaming to mimicking Grandad’s ‘funny face’ with a serious attitude. Cameron has made statements that he “shouldn’t” know.
I so look forward to teaching Cameron to play crib – and maybe being able to close my eyes and feel us all together.
It’s time for another blog blast at PBN. This time Electronic Arts has a spread of family games up for winning – write about the games your family plays and join in! We don’t have a Wii, but friends and family (maybe?) do, so it wouldn’t go unused!