Our youngest child calls from downstairs, "Will you be available until 8:00 tonight?" I check the time-almost 6:00 p.m. and call back, "Yes."
"Good. We're running to buy a game to play with you and Dad." My mind does a mental checklist of the things she could pick up.
A REAL toy store.
Twenty minutes later I hear the back door shut and the patter of feet. "Mom, Dad, come play."
Ah come play.
We sit down at the table to learn the rules of "Cover Your Assets." She and her husband recently played with friends and think it's the best game in the world, though they warn us, "People fight over this game." Our first round is practice and it's mild except for the irritation I can't hide when Tony steals my assets. As we move through round two, three, four...the tricks come forth and we experience the excitement in the game. But no one fights.
Instead, I look around the table with joy and feelings of nostalgia. I see my father, mother and my grandparents all sitting on the side patio shaded by a grape arbor. It is summer in Sugarhouse, and we've escaped onto the cool patio where my grandfather slices through a plum. He is mostly silent and his stomach bulges under the belt he still wears. The conversation is slow, but there's joy as my sisters and I pretend the curved steps and the miniature evergreens are a house.
I learn on these mellow summer evenings that every Friday night my dad, as a teenager and until he married and moved away, would sit on this patio and play cards with his parents, an uncle, a friend or a neighbor joining in. When it was too dark to play, Dad would hop in his roadster and join his friends.
We too are the fillers until 8:00 when they will move on to another activity with friends.
My children and I gathered too, to play cards with Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa. We occasionally played Hearts or Tonk, or Grandma's favorite, Skip-bo. We'd clear the dinner table, load the dishwasher and Dad or Mom shuffled the cards, placed them in piles, and slowly everyone sat down to play. That circle around the table is a precious memory.
As time passed, Tonk became confusing for Dad; even Skip-Bo became too complicated. We stopped playing cards. It's been two years since Dad's death and still we haven't played, but I feel a distinct longing to bring out the cards when next we gather.
In a month, Mom (or Grandma), will be coming for Thanksgiving; Mandi is coming from Chicago and everyone else will be here. After we clear the table, load the dishwasher, put away the food and sweep the floor, I'll bring out the newly purchased (surprise!) double pack of Skip-bo cards. Mom will be pleased and the memories will start all over again.