The number one cause of disagreements during our family get-togethers isn’t forgetting to buy a new girlfriend a Christmas present or rehashing an old argument over who got Aunt Kate’s teapot.
Competition is the number one cause because games are an integral part of our family history. My great-grandmother, Leona Schlautmann, started teaching me to play pinochle when I was five. I did okay but I didn’t understand German.
When I was four, a nail pierced my upper lip and cheek when I fell down a set of cement steps. I was racing my older brother, Brad. He won that race. Brad bounced my off a teeter totter when I was seven. To this day, I don’t know what game we were playing. I went flying and landed on the asphalt, shattering my elbow. I spent two weeks in traction in the Greeley Hospital, where I picked up the Asian flu from the little girl next to me. Double Jeopardy?
In 1970, when I should have been baking cakes in my Easy Bake Oven, I was playing Chess with Brad at my grandparent’s house in Sterling, Colorado. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I was so excited because I was one move from capturing his king. It would be my first win in twenty games. Brad made his move and put me in Stalemate. I threw all the kings' horses and all the kings’ men across my grandmother’s kitchen. When I was fourteen, I ran into a tree skiing at Loveland because I was trying to keep up with Brad, who was skiing off the run. When I was...
Our family holidays always include games, and for the most part the fun outweighs any discord. We’re open to new games. We've played Monopoly, Spoons, Uno, Spinners, Twister, Jenga, Fictionary, Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit. Outdoor games are very popular—lawn darts, badminton and our favorite; croquet. We set the meanest, croquet course possible because in extreme croquet, the more rocks, hills, and ditches you have to get around the better the course. Any game is fair game in our family, as long as it doesn’t interfere with a Red Sox or Bronco’s game.
We were fairly civil until the game Boggle was introduced to our family. Competition escalated. (Too many wordsmiths in the family.) My competitive drive kicked into overdrive. Eventually all but three family members stopped playing. My Dad declared Boggle was no fun. Others said why bother playing when they didn’t have a chance of winning.
Finally, I was the undisputed champion of something in my family. I glowed during my reign as Boggle Queen. But, it’s lonely at the top and it wasn’t nearly as much fun playing without the rest of the family. I didn’t like how competitive I’d become so I sanded my razor sharp competitive edge. I stopped caring if I won and guess what? I stopped winning.
Other family members started playing Boggle again. Although I’ve been accused of not trying when I play Boggle, I am trying. (I can’t help it if a lot of time goes by because I’m only looking for 5, 6, and 7 letter words.)
I was content not trying to win until I joined Red Room and saw the word “contest.” Unused electrons sparked in my brain. Memories of 1985 and 1986, when I entered every poetry contest listed in the Writer’s Market, flashed before my eyes.
RJ got home from work at 5 p.m. on Thursday and found me in my pajamas, trying to type as fast as I was thinking.
“Still writing a blog?"
“No, entering a short story contest,” I corrected. “Only two days to write it.”
RJ collapsed into his office chair. “So, I guess you didn’t make it to the grocery store today?”
“Nope,” I said. “Subway tonight.”
“And probably not to the post office, either?”
“Trying to win some books again?”
“Yup, and a trophy.”
“And a trophy,” RJ repeated slowly. “Don’t you have a Grant Application for the KAL Children’s Garden due today?”
“Yup,” I answered. “Do it later.”
“Do many people participate in these contests?” RJ asked.
“Yes, of course. My competitors are very talented.” Memories of the chess games with Brad flashed before my eyes.
“How do you think you’ll do?” RJ asked.
I shook off the memories of the chess games. Think of Boggle I told myself. “I’m going to win,” I said weakly.
“I bet you will,” RJ replied.
“You always say that RJ.”
“Why do you do this?" RJ asked worriedly. "I mean, what are you doing? You take it so seriously.”
I stopped typing. I peered at RJ over my reading glasses. Wasn’t it obvious?
“I’m back in the Writing Game, RJ. That’s all it is.”
Causes Jules Jacob Supports
CASA of Southwest Missouri, Master Gardeners of the Ozarks, University of Missouri Master Gardeners, Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocates Association...