Game time

There was a period one summer where my brother and I played Monopoly every day. My family was doing this thing where we had a chart that had a list of chores on it, and however many check marks we got meant that we got poker chips. Poker chips could be redeemed for things like television time or computer time or candy. My brother and I, both fearing that the other would have more chips, hoarded chips like mad. So we watched practically no television whatsoever and played Monopoly instead. I am sure we thought we were being very clever. We showed them! We had all these special rules, like we never used the $1 bills. We just rounded everything to the nearest $5. I have no idea why we did this. I think it might have had something to do with always running out of $100 bills, so we always just used the $1 as $100 when we ran out. Sometimes we’d line up our bills to show off how much money we had, and sometimes we’d put it all in a big stack. I remember Joseph would get everything in $5 and $10 bills so his stack would be taller.

Joseph and I liked to play games together. He would even play Sweet Valley High with me if I asked, although I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. It wouldn’t have been cool for people to know that he played a game where the point was to steal each other’s boyfriend. We had this really neat game that had to do with finding hidden treasure, and the regular stuff, too – Sorry, Trouble, Clue. I didn’t wish for another sibling except when we wanted to play Clue. You have to have three people, and sometimes Mom was too busy.

Last week I read Sars’ description of her family’s competitiveness, which includes things like marking each other out of the will for accusations of cheating. It reminded me of a long-forgotten story. For some reason, probably involving a game, Joseph wrote out a will that said, “When I die, Kari cannot have or read my Calvin and Hobbes books.” This was the ultimate punishment, because we read those books all the time, but it was only when we put the books together that we had a complete set. I wish I could remember what I did that pissed him off so much. I probably put hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place. hehehe.

My family played a lot of games in general. I remember playing Uno on the floor of our house in Charlotte. My dad would always keep an extra card under his leg, in case he forgot to say “uno.” He’d pull it out and say, “But I have dos cards, so I don’t need to say uno!” On Sunday afternoons, we often played Trouble in all its pop-o-matic glory. There’s a family story that involves Joseph and a Trouble delay-of-game that I shouldn’t share here. But his game delays were legendary. We played Skip-Bo and Milles Bornes and Battleship and Hungry Hungry Hippos (which I gave my mom one year for Mother’s Day. Loud games are what every mom dreams of for Mother’s Day).

After I got the Sweet Valley High board game, I tried and tried to get my dad to play it with me. He refused. At some point, we bet on a basketball game – he’s a Duke fan, so if Duke won, I was going to have to wear a Duke sweatshirt, but if Carolina won, he had to play Sweet Valley High with me. And, to my great delight, my team won. Somewhere I still have a polaroid of him sitting at the kitchen table playing the game. He definitely stole my boyfriend.

Mike and I love to play games, too. Trivia games are my favorite – we have Trivial Pursuit versions 5 & 6, Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, and, as aforementioned, Book Lover’s Trivial Pursuit. Mike won’t play Scrabble with me, though, because I suck and he is tired of beating me. I just can’t seem to visualize the words. And I won’t play Yahtzee anymore, because I am tired of losing. At least in Scrabble there’s a chance I will eventually get better.

When people tell me it’s not about winning or losing, I always quote Worf: “If winning is not important, Commander, why keep score?” But I don’t remember whether I won or lost most of those games (except an occasional crushing defeat or victory in Monopoly). I just remember it being fun to sit next to my dad and think we finally got him in Uno, only to have him pull out another card. I remember laughing at Joseph’s Trouble delays. I remember playing Trivial Pursuit with Mike one New Year’s Eve, the “Is a pickle really a vegetable” question, and making up words in the worst Scrabble game of all time.

I love playing games with my friends and family, because they create the kind of memories you can still tease one another about years later. Maybe that really is better than winning.

(I’ll have to think about that one.)

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