I can’t believe I haven’t told this one yet. Over the last week or so, we’ve been playing a lot of card games. And my oldest is really starting to enjoy it. I’ve revisited the rules of Crazy 8s. Euchre is mandatory at Christmas. And every single card game I know or have played starts at my grandparents’ dining room table.
To be honest, I don’t know when we started playing cards. It just always was there. After my parents divorce, we were over at my grandparents more often, so the card games were more frequent for sure. There was one deck they had that I can still picture in my head. When my grandmother moved out of the little bungalow she and my grandfather built after my dad bought the farm, the entire family was invited over to pick out a few mementos that they wanted. That deck of cards was one of mine and it sits in the memory box I keep in my closet.
My fondest memory is that set of cards, at the dining room table, middle of a Sunday afternoon. The weather was terrible so my grandfather was home. We had finished lunch and cleaned up. (Side note: My grandmother always did the dishes immediately after a meal. I thought it silly at the time, but now I get it. The calm that comes with a clean sink should never be underestimated. Not that I abide by it to this day, but it really is soothing to have a clean sink.)
With an entire afternoon stretching before us, my grandparents sat myself and my sister down with that deck of cards and dealt out the euchre hands. I’m almost positive we had played before because I don’t recall going over the rules at this time. I do remember a feeling of familiarity, one that colours just about every memory I have that involves my grandparents.
The standard rule was to pair up with one of the grandparents, to make it fair. In that household, there was no “letting the kids win” method. You won fair and square. Or that’s what they let us believe. For this particular game it was myself and my grandmother playing against my sister and my grandfather. My sister plays the same way now as she did back then, ruthlessly. She does not limit her enthusiasm for winning to cards, either. Monopoly, video games, you name it and she will do her best to crush you.
Frankly, it was a good idea to have her set up with my grandfather. They have the same sort of no backing down spirit once they’ve made up their mind about something. My grandmother, on the other hand, was steady as she goes. I feel like she would have been a really good poker player because she wore the same serene smile regardless of the hand she had been dealt. At least, that’s what I recall. Being a terrible poker player myself, maybe one of my siblings has a better read on the situation. That whole takes one to know one thing.
Back to the game at hand, this is where this particular card game stands out against all the rest. I euchred my grandfather. On a solo hand. This did not happen on the regular and certainly not to him. The laugh that rolled out of him over this is one that I have held on to as tightly as I can over the years and when I think of him, it’s that laugh that comes back to me.
Now that my boys are getting older, we’ve started to introduce them to a variety of card games. My sister in law taught Boy #1 gin rummy last summer. After that, every time she was at the cottage with us, they were playing gin rummy. Most weekend mornings in recent memory start with a game of SkipBo, which for the life of me I can not seem to win if there are more than two players. In fact, one night last week Boy #1 opted to play cards rather than Xbox before bed. Now I don’t know a lot about preteens but if mine is choosing to play cards with me over playing a video game, I’m going to take that as a major win.
This also is proof that my DNA actually exists within this beautiful human. Given that I spent 41 weeks cooking him and then 14 hours of laboring to deliver, this is a relief.
Between the memories of my childhood and creating the memories of their childhoods there is something about sitting around a deck of cards that soothes all the rough edges. Just one more thing that started in the comfort of my grandparents presence.
Given the chance to do it again, I would still euchre my grandfather. My sister isn’t the only one who can be ruthless.