Friday, January 4, 2013

What A Card

Of all the ways I like to waste time, playing cards is my favorite.  Growing up in a trailer park in California like I did meant there wasn’t much for a kid to do. So in the fourth grade when some army brats moved in on the row behind mine, they invited me over to play some serious cards—War.  Then we sat on their front porch for hours while they taught me to shuffle and bridge a deck.  Those eight-year-old girls changed my life.
I was already pretty good at Fish and Old Maid.  But they taught me to play a mean game of Rummy, as well. For a while, those were the sum total of my gambling vices, except I never bet any money when I played—we were Baptist and didn’t believe in it.  I was just betting I could win.
And that’s my favorite part of playing cards—being competitive.  It’s the only place you’ll ever see my aggressive side, unless you happen to get in my way on the freeway and then I just want you to know—you had it coming.  I’m not a mean card player either.  If I’m losing, I might make rude comments and suggest that my opponents have no scruples and no skill, but that doesn’t make me a poor loser.  That makes me a big mouth.
Playing cards without money is great therapy, in my opinion.  You can get out all your frustrations in one short losing hand and a couple of displays of poor sportsmanship, put all the cards back in the box when the wrong team wins, and laugh over dessert with the same people you wanted to strangle only five minutes earlier. Nobody's broke, no one gets hurt and you all practice tolerance. It’s a politically correct pastime.
Cards level the playing field.  Don’t you agree that the best way to get to know people is to play Hearts with them?  You might think your husband is easy to read, but just let him run the cards and heartlessly saddle you with twenty-six undeserved points, and suddenly you start to wonder if he ever meant all those things he wrote in your Valentine’s Day cards.  Okay, maybe that’s a bad example.
I just think you really get to see people be themselves when you all sit around a table playing Penochle or maybe Hand and Foot.  There’s a lot of good natured kidding that goes on and if the other players aren’t too sensitive, everybody knows the insults flying back and forth are just a friendly way of telling people you think they’re fun to hang out with.  It can be a real confidence builder when you stop and think about it.
And cards are educational, too.  Our kids learned complex math skills during raucous rounds of Cribbage at our house.  To this day, when they shop at hardware stores, they sort through screws by counting fifteen two, fifteen four and a pair for six.
When I look back on my extensive life, I think I owe a lot to a deck of cards.  Counting cards improved my memory, Euchre taught me to read other people’s minds, and learning how to short suit myself taught me to be logical.  And don't forget about the importance of being a team player.  It takes two brilliant women to gang up on overconfident husbands and beat them at their own game, you know.
And when the time comes that my children choose the nursing home I’ll wind up living in, I won’t hold a grudge just because they refuse to take me in and store me in their attic.  As long as there’s a Euchre table waiting for me in the dining room there, I’ll think I died and went to heaven. All I’ll need is three other geriatric gamers who can hold their own against a gray-haired card shark masquerading as an old lady.
After all, living out your final days in an assisted care home isn’t the worst fate a person could experience.  I'll just have to remember what I’ve learned by maintaining my perfect losing streak in Hearts—play the cards you’re dealt.

(Photo courtesy of FieZero's photostream)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiezero/4267963765/

14 comments:

  1. What a great article! Xbox and all those computer games don't hold a candle to a game of cards. Like you said, when playing cards,"Nobody's broke, no one gets hurt and you all practice tolerance." I wish more people understood the value of good, old-fashioned games!

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    1. Thanks, Eryn! I so agree! We love board games as well as card games, but I'm always surprised at how many people don't enjoy playing them. I don't suppose you live in Arizona and are looking for a rousing game of Euchre, huh? :)

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  2. Excellent entry, Eula. I should have insisted on playing some cards while we were there. I got in plenty of Cribbage with my dad while we visited; but I haven't played Hand and Foot since the last time I played with you guys (who also taught it to me)... which was, um... a long time ago. I love the trash talk with you, funny and good-natured, rather than mean-spirited. I realize that I just saw you, but I'd give a lot to have a teleporter and be able to hop down to play a game or eight with you.

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    1. I wish you could hop down here for a game of Hand and Foot, too, Elisa! That visit went way too fast. Next time we get together, we'll order pizza and pull out the cards. Deal? :)

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    2. That sounds like an excellent deal. And you all are welcome here any time as well. Though I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to spend a bit more time at home this year and less on the road. Either way, I have come to the conclusion that I need to find a way to play cribbage online with friends.

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    3. Yeah, I'm feeling the need to be home for a while. But I love the idea of online cribbage with friends. If that's for real, count me in!

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  3. I grew up playing cards as well - Michigan, Gin, Hearts, Dutch Blitz - love card games. It's a great way of bonding with your family. Over Christmas I was laughing with my mom and dad about something that happened 45 years ago during a game of cards. Such great memories!

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    1. It's been a while since I played Gin - I could use a refresher course sometime! And my daughter, who is the sharkiest card shark I've ever met, is killer good at Dutch Blitz which we learned with a regular deck of cards and called Battle.

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  4. Oh! I love a good night of Hearts! Not a waste of time at all! :)
    Anne Dovel

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    1. You're so right, Anne - cards really are NOT a waste of time. It's just such a fun way to spend time with friends and build relationships. I may never learn how to run Hearts, though. :(

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  5. One of my earliest memories is watching you, Uncle Rob, Mom and Dad play Euchre in Florida and wondering why the heck a jack took an ace and every few hands you'd all just toss in the rest of your cards and not play them. That game is not one you pick up on just by watching. But it turned into my favorite game!
    The entire McLeod family is my favorite group of people to play games with. Most likely because that's always been our go to comfort zone during visits, but also because laughing til you're crying is the norm and the MOST creative clean name calling gets introduced into my vocabulary.
    I've got a group of friends here that are game nuts like us. I've taught them cribbage, Euchre, and their new favorite, fruit basket. A deck of cards is all we need for hours of fun. Just another reason I get so confused when people are always whining about, "there's nothing to do!"

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    1. Your folks are still our favorite card players to team up with. They taught us Euchre and cribbage and how to elevate friendly rivalry to a level just short of bazookas and landmines. ;) Way to carry on the tradition, Mendy! I can't wait for another visit with you and your family. And on a side note - when are you going to start your own blog? You're a crack up! Love ya!

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  6. I do hope a visit is in short order!
    Thanks for the kind words! I blogged back in the day, when MySpace was still popular. There are a few creative gems, but many more lumps of coal.
    I love to write when inspired, but too often the muses stay silent. Then I start feeling stressed if I haven't written anything new in a while.
    Maybe someday, when my only internet access has a keyboard larger than a pink pearl eraser, I may pick it up again. Until then, I'll keep relishing each new morsel you bless us with!

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    1. Ah, thanks, Mendy! I gotta tell ya, though, I've put up a lot of pieces here that I thought were lumps of coal but which others valued a lot more highly than I did. And remember, there's always pencil and paper. ;)

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