Homebodies - We learned so much because we wanted to


By Rita Friesen

Remember when a winter evening meant family gathered round playing table games? Or a slow Sunday afternoon when hours were devoted to Monopoly?  Patience and sportsmanship were gained when siblings or cousins competed in Snakes and Ladders, Parcheesi and checkers – the round metal Chinese checker game with six sets of different coloured marbles or the flat checked board with the black or white disks. 

Growing up, the checker games were favourites. My dad didn’t often play table games with us but there was one, Pit, involving commodities, grains if I remember correctly, collecting sets, that he enjoyed. Scrabble came a little later, as did Yahtzee, and my mother especially loved Mahjong, teaching her grandchildren the art of losing gracefully. 

 Our family knew that if they wanted dad to play, all they had to do was bring the Stock Market game box to the table. Ed excelled at Scrabble and set the family record for most points for a single word, 129 points with the word ‘equinox’ on a triple score tile. He also set the single game point record – 601, with a total of four seven letter words – the writing on the inside of the box is faded and smudged but three of the four are “unwebbed”, “manuals” and “greedier”. 

Table tennis isn’t a sit down table game, but it does require a table. The basement on the farm housed a snooker table and a tennis table, and whereas I could more than hold my own with the paddle, I never could master the cue. Most of our children became competent and competitive at both those games.

 I am pleased to see resurgence with time spent playing social games. Hours slip away when two or more people work their way through the 12 levels of contract rummy, or dominoes starting with the double 12. 

One game banned in our home has been spoons. Tables have died under the onslaught of grabbing hands! Cribbage is a game for all ages, as are many cards games. 

There was a year when the government supplied “Exploration” to all grade five students. I think it was to mark a provincial birthday. The goal was to obtain language cards that allowed you to place your peg on a site on a map of the world. Without knowing it, we were learning continents, countries and cities and the major languages spoken in these distant places. 

And the bits and bobs of everything we learned while playing Trivia Pursuit! 

Often the players were multi-generational. Always competitive. We learned so much because we wanted to, the value of money – pretend though it was- risk taking, counting and basic math, turn taking, playing fair and there was always room for dialogue. Not sure that solitary hand held game consoles quite meet those standards.