Tuesday, January 8, 2008

For the love of cards and grandmas

When we were in Hawaii, sans computers and such, Jeff and I played cards. Who plays cards anymore? Certainly not my husband, who spends every spare minute in front of one of his seventeen computers/gadgets/musical instruments. And me? I'm not much better now that I have this blogging habit. But in Hawaii we got so, like, 1970s, and played cards a few nights. And we giggled a ton. It was great.

The whole card game thing reminds me of my paternal grandma, with whom I played cards until she died. Lest you start to picture a sweet little pie-baking old lady, well, don't do that. She was a single academic smarty pants type, who had travelled the world (I know she taught English to nuns in Tibet for awhile, for example). She raised four kids with a man who was a terrible father, and then he left her anyway. She really wasn't much for children or anything domestic. At her house in Indiana I first learned about takeout Chinese food, being a country girl where there was no takeout anything (not even scrapple). And she taught me to make Jello (what, you say? She wasn't domestic? I know.) In the matter of fact way that one could imagine a worldly woman of a certain age teaching her granddaughter to make Jello: of course you can do it, Nora. Here's how. This does not define you. This is just so we can have some Jello. And here's a trick about ice cubes so it sets faster because my artist friend Arty McArtypoet is coming over for tea later. Yes, of course you can listen to our charming banter. There now, we made Jello. On to the next thing.

And in this same peer-to-peer style, she taught me how to play cards. Just about every card game I know, actually, came from her. Peanuts, casino, kings in the corner, rummy, hearts. And I loved her hands, not because they were beautiful, in fact the opposite. Because she was the only person I have ever known to have the stubby broad thumbs that I have, with nails wider than they are long and the rest perfectly, upsettingly straight unlike NORMAL PEOPLE who have at least a little curve to their thumbs. Really most unattractive things. So yes, genetics, they were passed down from her to me, et cetera. But my dad? My genetic link to her? Hitchhiker's thumbs. Amazing in their oppositeness to mine and his mother's. She and I must have looked quite the pair playing cards together with our special thumbs out for the world to see.

In a glowing example of my blogging naivete, I thought it would be cute and charming and family-oriented to post the rules to the game we played most (casino). It turns out this would actually be frightfully boring. And I can never learn a game from the directions anyway, just by playing, so come on over to my place and I'll teach you the rules and we'll have a giggle. Or, you can find the rules of casino here, by some nice folks who clearly have more patience than me in writing out rules.

11 comments:

bubandpie said...

Rules are the hardest thing in the world to read and understand. Math problems would be easier.

"This does not define who you are. This is just so that we can have Jello." I love that philosophy.

Who She She said...

What a great post (and a great grandma!). I, too, learned cards at the knee of an independent old woman. Spite & Malice. We'd smoke and drink beer and she'd say, "Sharper than a serpants tooth!" whenever I played a good hand. God, I haven't thought of that in years. Thanks.

Melanie said...

I, too, loved the Jello bit. Perfect.

My game was Gin with my paternal grandfather. He taught me how to play; he taught me how to cheat. I need Jimmy to get a little older so he can play cards with me, just like his namesake.

ellen said...

What fantastic memories of such a unique and special woman!
I am very bad at any games except the Japanese game of Go which I learned to play a long time ago.
Such a fun post, thanks!

see you there! said...

Ohh, Spite and Malice, good one! My family is made up of a bunch of card playing fools. So far I've only gotten the GD as far as Phase 10 but she might be ready to leap into Spite and Malice this summer.

Goodie!

Darla

Nora Bee said...

Spite and malice, I've never heard of this and now will have to play. Ellen: my husband is an avid go player--it drives me crazy so I am very impressed with you.

Mary Alice said...

I loved this post. What an interesting woman. The whole convesation about the jello "this does not define you" Brilliant.

Vanessa said...

I love cards and boardgames. Good old fashioned fun.

Claire B. said...

OMG! My sister has your thumbs. Do they look like big toes? A brother or two also do, and I think someone has one of each. (big family)

And your grandmother sounds like a dream.

Mac and Cheese said...

It is so nice that you have such great memories to hold on to.

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