No Holds Barred

card playersFunny you should ask about the unconstrained expression of emotions. If there’s one thing that drives one of my brothers-in-law deep into the far recesses of the house, it’s my family gathered around a table for a game of cards. No matter the game, we are loud, hysterical, boisterous, frustrated, laughing, cheering, constantly accusing others of cheating and generally having the time of our lives. And no, we aren’t intoxicated. We don’t need the excuse.

By chance, last night just happened to be one of those nights. The scene: A sister is in town visiting, and we were gathered at the other sister’s house for dinner. During “happy hour,” while making dinner, and waiting for various folks to arrive after a long work day, we rotated in and out of a game of Spite and Malice. Whomever is playing depended on who was free to play a hand while others were busy chopping, mixing, cooking, finishing up a consultation with the tree guy, or walking the dog. After dinner, three of us started with Gin Rummy, but since we’ve never been absolutely sure we correctly understand the scoring, and because two more decided Monday TV didn’t have much to offer, and so they’d rather play cards, we switched to Tripoley, or for you east coasters, Michigan Rummy.

When my family sits down to a game of cards, a beast is unleashed; the kind that does not care for how offended you are by getting tromped, or about being kind, gentle, or considerate of the other guy. Those sensitive to the hullabaloo, like the brother-in-law mentioned, go running for deep cover. Otherwise, it is the one opportunity that children get to gleefully sock it to their parents, as well as for spouses to finally have it all out, complete with arm punches and the sticking out of tongues (and not in a “come hither” way. At all.) Being the youngest, it’s a wonderful time to pummel my older siblings and grotesquely reel in my success. Good times.

But the best pay-off of Game night is when my typically quiet, calm, and gentle-of-temperment eldest brother becomes a wide-eyed crazy-man demon. He blasts his wife with scoldings and exclamations of total disbelief when she makes a questionable play, and he tosses his hand of cards across the table at me because I just happened to go out first, costing him many points. Never one to get confrontational with our father, he had no compunction to blast him out of the water with criticism and disgust at how he played whatever game we were playing. My father loved it. Now, that’s some very good times.