Sunday, December 27, 2009

Family Games

The game was “Smart Ass” which I selected for the after Christmas dinner recovery around the table. Ours is a smart group. Or so we like to think so. Some branches more competitive than others. Others quietly knowing but not entering in until all others have foolishly spoken too soon, giving up their chance to bring in the point, then themselves, with quiet grace give the answer. The three top, in order of success: my brother, his son and then my dad (their father and grandfather respectively). My son, who was raised where shouting and arguing should be avoided at all cost, where it only moved into dangerous territory, is one who quietly sits by until others have duked it out, only entering in when he is absolutely certain he is right and will not risk being wrong. In this game that doesn’t leave much chance for gaining a card. But winning is not everything. Sometimes surviving is more important.

My sister-in-law would have been in that top ranking but she is graceful and leaves to deal with the dishes, giving the rest a chance.

My style is ultimate “Smart Ass.” I shout out the first thing that comes to mind at the first clue. Not a good strategy for winning points, but oh so impressive if one just happens to get lucky and get it right. It’s not about the number of points. For me, it is about the quality of the few points I may get. The quality borne of a clairvoyant knowledge based solely on feeling about what the card is subliminally shouting to me. And, probably more importantly, taking myself out of the question early so that then I can pretend, at the second clue that, “oh yeah, I so know that answer but now can’t participate” just so that you won’t catch on to how comparatively stupid I can feel around these brilliant people. I think my son and I, though employing different strategies, are really quite similar.

Last night, the night following the game, i observed the table dynamics and say to my brother’s family “I bet the only thing that is more rarely heard in your home than “you were right” is “I was wrong.” They laugh and agree. “Those words are never uttered under our roof.” I find it interesting, even admirable, that this seems to work for them. Really well.

My father isn’t so much competitive in games yet still I am a little shocked at how the answers are not coming to him. (remember he came in third so I am not saying he is dull. Just not as sharp as he was a year or two ago) In categories scientific we all look to him for the answer. I can see it is there, right there, in his frontal lobe, but will not make the leap to his tongue. I feel his frustration. It is palatable. He is uncharacteristically quiet. I think rather than sitting back and thinking “these well working brains came from my loins” he is instead lost in his loss. My mind in sympathy completely goes blank on something so obvious it screams. Something like the name of my own brother sitting right across from me. Oh God, I hope nobody noticed. (it keeps me awake later that night). This “Smart Ass” game, so appropriately named for my family, shows me things I don’t want to see.

But last night, the night following the game, as we are all gathered around a different table, in a fine seafood restaurant this time, the subject of “Snuggies” comes up. The question is posed “So, since Snuggies are the fad items of this season, what do you suppose the opposite, the Snuggie rebellion movement, will feature?” My father, without missing a beat, states quite seriously “two corks and a shoestring.”

My nephew and myself spit the mid-sip wine free from our mouths. When I can catch my breath I look at my nephew who, like me, has tears running down his cheeks. I lean forward to look down to the other end of the table to see what my father is doing. Nothing. He is sitting there in complete normalcy, having rendered the rest of the table useless. He got his game back.

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