Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Turkey Day Brings a Whole New Meaning to Family Game Night

original run date November 22, 2011
Chariton Valley News Press

Holiday traditions are wonderful, aren’t they?
The food is always fantastic and in abundance. The laughter that rolls out of my parent’s house is loud, rambunctious and constant. But by far my favorite holiday tradition has nothing to do with the food on the table. My extended family doesn’t get together until Thursday evening so most of the football games are over. Not that many in the family care about the games past Larry, Jake, my brother and me. So a big part of our family gatherings is games. Card games and board games have provided this family with some of the best and funniest memories ever of the holiday season.
Every year, at some point during the Thanksgiving celebration at my mom and dad’s house, we fit as many people around the big dining room table as we can for a game of some kind. Now, if you know my mom’s dining room table you know that it is huge. It was assembled, stained and varnished in the living room because it won’t fit through any door in the house.
If there is ever a fire in their home, that table will smolder for days because it is built so heavy. It is a good thing though because when you get 10-12 of us around that table – things get brutally ugly.
For years, it was pitch. Every one of us kids learned pretty early on how to play the game. The grandkids were brought into the “pitch playing fools” circle as soon as they could lay the cards out in order. We would have pitch tournaments throughout the night as the losers at one table had to play the winners on the other table. The winners always got to keep their chair. One game would last for hours. The all-time record was over 30 hands in one game because there were so many sets throughout the evening.
Uno was a staple for several years when my kids were little. It always amazes me how a group of adults can turn into barbarians when they have that draw four card in their clutch. It is all supposed to be in fun, but there were those moments when the comments that came with the grand placing of the card on the pile made me wonder about hidden hostilities brewing under that smile.
As more and more grandkids entered the family fold, we decided at some point through the years to add in a game everyone could play. Spoons became a tradition that brought out the competitive spirit in everyone. My husband and nephew tried stock piling spoons in their pockets so not to get injured in the ruckus when that first spoon was snatched from the center of the table. Someone always tried hiding cards and always got caught.
It became evident early on that whoever had grabbed the first spoon had to prove they actually had four cards that matched because some people – who shall remain nameless – would grab a spoon just to watch the fireworks. Can you imagine, grown adults cheating at a game as simple as spoons?
Several years ago when Mom had a new dining room floor installed, she had to call all of us laughing. As dining room furniture was moved around, she decided to clean out all the vents in the room. She found teaspoons that had been sent flying across the room and lost in the vents.
I think that was the year she decided the game was a danger to her youngest grandchildren and should probably not be played in the future. What a spoilsport. I mean, no one was ever seriously injured during the game – only a few scratches here and there. The karate chop to the wrist that caused a hand to go numb and release the last spoon on the table left no marks and therefore does not count.
Other games have come and gone. Pictionary was a favorite for a while but getting stomped by the in-laws every year was pretty embarrassing. The Bixenman side of my family has no artistic genes what so ever.
I still contend there was some table talk going on between team members *cough Doug/Larry cough* because there is no way on earth some of those “drawings” that the guys scratched out on paper resembled anything on those cards. Those points for actually coming up with the right answers are still under review.
I’m pretty sure the makers of Apples to Apples, Outburst, Guesstures and Taboo had no idea what level a family like ours could sink their games to, but we always manage to do it. It seems the harder we laugh at each other, the worse it gets. I’m guessing that is also the reason that every Thanksgiving, someone brings in a new game to try out – just to see where it will end up.
I’m sure this year will be no different. Somebody will show up with a game just to see how creative everyone playing can get with their answers.
If not, break out the spoons Grandma because here we come!


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