The holidays are just around the corner and with their arrival, many universal family rituals return. When individuals who haven’t seen each other since last Thanksgiving (or sometimes even longer) reunite to partake of good food, football, and gossip about the relatives who didn’t show up, inevitably, out come the board games, decks of cards, and puzzles.
Now, you’re either all in or all out on games and puzzles at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some people live for the annual 8-hour game of Monopoly. Others would rather eat three large Pyrex dishes of green bean casserole or the “Ring Around The Tuna” Jell-O recipe than endure a game, which is seldom played by the actual rules.
By the way, I’m not making that last one up about the Jell-O. It’s a real recipe. It has chunks of tuna, pimientos, and cucumbers folded inside lime Jell-O. But, I’ll save disgusting holiday recipes that no one likes, but never admits that they don’t like, for another column.
Gathering around the dining room or a card table to play board games, work a puzzle, or play cards during the holidays is a tradition in my family and many others.
When I was a kid, the children in the family would drag out my grandmother’s Monopoly game and set it up on a card table in the sitting room. The sitting room was the room that every person born between the late 1800s and 1925 had, that was filled with nice furniture that was covered in plastic. Even though the furniture had enough plastic to protect it from nuclear fallout, no one was ever allowed to sit on the couch or chairs.
Back to Monopoly. We would try to acquire nice property and lots of money without going to jail. That’s a good goal in life, by the way, but again, I digress.
After a couple of hours of playing Monopoly without arguing, eventually one of the participants would disagree with someone else’s interpretation of a rule and a parent would be summoned from their card game in the kitchen. This normally ended with the two or three kids who were arguing being sent outside into the cold with instructions to play football or something else, and to not come back in the house until they could straighten up and fly right.
I still don’t know what that means.
In the kitchen, pots of percolator coffee flowed freely. As the adults guzzled large quantities of Maxwell House and played bridge or spades, they would reminisce about those who were no longer with us, days gone by, or discuss how our country was on the fast track to hades.
It’s funny how people’s perceptions of things don’t change much, even decades later.
Other board games for the younger kids would include Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Operation, Trouble, Connect Four, and Battleship. I always liked Battleship, even when I was older.
My mom’s mother loved jigsaw puzzles. Consequently, there were plenty of jigsaw puzzles available to strew across an extra card table and begin working on. Quite often, the photo on the lid of the puzzle box depicted a country church, a pastoral scene, or a picture of kittens or puppies.
We seldom ever finished a jigsaw puzzle, unless my grandmother was helping us. Like the game of dominoes, my grandmother had an uncanny ability to play and win at dominoes or quickly assemble a jigsaw puzzle, even if the puzzle had a lot of pieces.
As each of the kids got older, we would be invited to the adult tables. I’m not just referring to playing cards, I’m referring to eating meals. That’s how you knew that you were no longer considered a kid. If you were invited to eat at a table that didn’t have folding legs, you were now viewed as all grown up.
This Thanksgiving, my wife and I will spend time at both her family’s and at mine. I expect there will be a game of spades or hearts, and quite possibly a jigsaw puzzle thrown into the mix.
Monopoly has been mothballed at holiday gatherings the last few years, so I’m not expecting to have to hope for a good roll of the dice and enough money to acquire Park Place and Boardwalk.
But I am praying that the food selection does not include any tuna-infused Jell-O.
And, if one of the kids brings Battleship, I’m definitely up for that.
©2017 John Moore
John’s new book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now is available on Amazon and at More and Moore Treasures in Ashdown, Arkansas.