Game On ...and On and On!

A House of Cards (and Dice and Dominoes)

Two weeks ago, while spending a weekend at my daughter's house I was awakened at 6:30 on Saturday morning by my barely six-year-old grandson who excitedly announced that he'd just beaten Papi (my husband) at Wahoo. If you only knew what a big deal that was! But more about that later.

First, let me explain that games are an integral part of our family's DNA. Our hall closets are crammed with tattered, well-worn boxes of Monopoly and Life and Clue and Trivial Pursuit, each with its own history of come-from-behind victories or landslide defeats. We own Scrabble and Backgammon boards too, but to be honest those quiet, reflective thinking games don't see much daylight. It's the action-packed, cutthroat, slam your opponent, all-or-nothing challenges that we like best around here (did I mention we're a rather competitive bunch?)

Both my husband and I come from a long line of game-players. His mother says her earliest recollections are of sitting in her father's lap while he played Forty-Two (a domino game similar to the card game of Spades.) And just last week Marc's 86-year-old dad got his name in the local small town Texas newspaper, touting him as the "elder statesman” among a group of farmers who play regular dominoes down at the now-defunct cotton gin every day.

In my case, growing up in a household of all girls there wasn't a game of Battleship in sight. We much preferred Hi-Ho-Cherry-O, Mousetrap and of course, Barbie. (This may sound weird, but I actually thought Poindexter was kind of cute, in his own dorky little way.) I was a whiz at Slap-Jack too, although that one is more a test of sheer speed and reflex than skill.

As a teenager on church trips I mastered card games like Hearts and Spades, and my biggest regret is that I never picked up Bridge. Marc meanwhile excelled at Risk – one of those strategy-heavy contests that bores the heck out of me, but is perfectly suited for brainy guys like him.

The beauty of our respective upbringings is that we are evenly matched. As a result he and I spend countless evenings engaged in Pinochle or Greed (a dice game), and even travel with a handy deck of cards for a quick Gin Rummy match in the airport lounge. I'm quite convinced that as a team we'd be a forced to be reckoned with, but I'll never know for sure, since we discovered early on how much more fun any game is when you pit the guys against the girls!

As parents we felt honor bound to bring up respectable little game players, so we started our young offspring out early with Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land. Later on Checkers were added to the repertoire, along with our other traditional favorites.

But learning to play wasn't always fun and games for them. Why? Because regardless of how old (or how young!) our children were, their Dad would never "let” them win! Seriously. Even when they were four years old and barely able to hold six playing cards in their chubby little hands he would still whip them soundly in Go Fish, or forever leave them stuck with the Old Maid.

The good news is, thanks to their rather steep learning curve, as adults Lauren and Jason are now very formidable contestants in any game. What's more, they are fierce competitors who understand that it actually IS whether you win or lose, as well as how you play the game. And for them, understandably, there is no sweeter victory than beating their old man.

This, of course, brings me back to the Wahoo game. In case you're unfamiliar with it, it's similar to Parker Brothers' "Sorry”. The objective is to be the first to get your marbles around the board and into your own "Tee Pee” without being knocked off by an opponent. It can be a pretty ruthless every-man-for-himself ordeal, involving both offensive and defensive strategies. (Our version of the game has even been enhanced by an additional rule: if you roll out of turn, your opponent can quickly grab your die and throw it clear across the room, forcing you to get up and go fetch it!)

On the weekend in question, poor little Aidan had gone head-to-head with Papi no fewer than five times without success. But on that Saturday morning, those two annoyingly early risers had apparently sat down for one more Wahoo matchup, and this time the little guy finally beat his granddad. No wonder he woke me up early with the news!

Not surprisingly, Papi is already planning a rematch, and this time it's for all the marbles. I don't have to tell you which contender I'm secretly rooting for.

Game on! Let the good times (and the dice) roll!

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