When I was a kid, we just didn’t have a whole lot of money to enjoy some of the amenities that a lot of my friends had. Personal computers weren’t what they are today. Texas Instruments. Apple. Radio Shack. All of these companies produced computers but they cost a small fortune (for my family) and didn’t offer near the variety that computers and gaming systems offer today.
After being pestered by my brother and I for years, my parents finally broke down and scrounged together enough money for us to have a Texas Instruments TI-99-4A. I’m not sure how much my parents paid for it, but I’m sure they made some sacrifices to afford it.
The graphics were horrible, it was slow as molasses in January, you needed to connect it to the TV, and it probably froze frequently. But it was ours, we loved it, and we realized it was a privilege to have it and to play it. We never spent a whole lot of time playing on it, not the way that my kids and other kids today spend hours at a time on one game.
One of my most vivid and cherished memories of my childhood was game night at the Gibson house. As a pastor, my dad would often have to work in the evening. He would have counseling appointments, prayer meeting, more counseling appointments, and an assortment of other commitments that would take him out of the house frequently between Sunday night and Thursday night. The most memorable question to my dad was, “Dad, do you have to go out tonight?” A reply of, “No” to that question was always followed by an inner celebration of sorts for me. I’m pretty sure that among the next questions to escape my mouth was, “Can we play a game?”
Funny, the only game I really remember playing with my dad was Bible Tic Tac Toe. Needless to say, he pretty much won all the time. As he got older (and so did I) I think he migrated to an assortment of other games, most likely due to my mom’s influence. Still, when it came to games, my mom was the expert.
Yahtzee. Uno. Scrabble. Dutch Blitz. The list probably goes on and on, but those were the games that I remembered. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my mom got her love of games from her mother because I can remember playing Scrabble with my mom and grandma for hours. My grandma was a Scrabble fiend, I think she kicked my tail hundreds of time. Her reputation for Scrabble was such that I even remember my brother mentioning her love of the game at her memorial service after she died.
After my parents died, my brother and I went through their stuff and divided it between us. There wasn’t a whole lot of things that had significant monetary value, most of the items had more sentimental value than anything else. Among those belongings were my parents’ games. Having kids of my own, I wanted to have the chance to play some of the very games that I had enjoyed with my parents with my own kids.
It will be three years next month since my dad died and five years in July since my mom died. My kids are getting older, the two oldest being among the best readers in their classes. So, having endured hours and hours of video game playing by my two oldest, I thought that the time had finally come to dig out my parents’ Scrabble game.
I asked my wife where we had stored it and she told me. I’m not sure what was going through her head when I asked her, probably something like, “You can’t be serious!” It seemed a risky proposition to attempt this game with a seven year old, a nine year old, and a four year old (the four year old would be on someone else’s team), but we did it anyway.
The result was much more enjoyable than either of us would have expected. The Scrabble board was utilized much more expansively than either of us would have imagined. Other than the fussings of my four year old (which are fairly typical in anything these days), I think that we all had fun.
My heart was warm!
Since my kids have been able, we’ve played games with them. Chutes and Ladders. Candyland. Headbandz. Yahtzee. Pie Face! Now we can add Scrabble to that list. And I’ve successfully begun to pass on a family tradition.
It’s funny, it was almost as if I had gone back in time as I played the exact game that I had played for years and years with my mom and grandma. I could almost hear them laughing, taunting, encouraging, and laughing some more. I even found some decades old scraps of paper with scores of played games between me and my grandma. I’m pretty sure she always won.
Yes, my kids still love their gaming system. Yes, they’ll still spend hours on end playing in front of the TV, but I’m really encouraged to know that it’s possible and even enjoyable to take a break from those gaming systems and pull out an old-fashioned game to sit around the kitchen table and laugh together.
After all, the family that games together, stays together, right?