The Game Is On!

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

The raucous laughter from the next room was shaking the sliding barn-like door to my bedroom. There was a hilarious game of “Shanghai” going on in the kitchen/dining/living room of our rented vacation cabin in the piney woods of Chattahoochee Bend State Park. “Now it starts,” my daughters yelled, echoing one another, “Now it starts!” More loud laughter.
I had gone to bed and was trying to read, while the others played games, having worn myself out earlier running around the Park playing a Photo Scavenger Hunt. The Hunt was initiated by the folks at the visitor center where they had given us a sheet with 20 things, people, or places we were to find and photograph, in no particular order, then number in the corresponding boxes returning to the center no later than 4 p.m. to be judged by one of the friendly Ranger – type workers.
We were to work in teams no larger than six and no smaller than two, and each photo had to have at least one of the team members in the photograph. I most loved the picture I took of my very grown-up daughters hanging off the spider web-like “Jungle gym” at the amazing new playground. The oldest was humoring me by wearing a Superman cape I had bought for $1 at the flea market on the outskirts of Newnan earlier in the day. I also purchased a 1979 glass decanter with John Wayne on the front (for Bill, a huge fan of the Duke), and six bottles of Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena hand soap at $1 per bottle. Then I found a terrific “Messenger Bag” from American Eagle with an inside zippered pouch designed for my laptop that I just “had to have.” Excellent purchase for just $9.
Bill says “had to have,” “want” and “need” are synonymous in my vocabulary.
Other jewels we found, but didn’t buy, were a tomato red wall telephone, a beauty of a weathered porch swing, and a maroon pageant gown with bejeweled silver trim.  Probably things I didn’t “need” anyway. Bill did buy a large cup of freshly boiled peanuts as a gift for daughter Kim, and she bought a freshly fried batch of pork rinds for our son-in-law Joe. I also managed to capture pictures that fulfilled any number of Scavenger clues. I’d say that was a morning well spent!
”Now it starts,” was the clarion call of my mother, Granny, to just about everyone who knew her, when she played her favorite card game (next to Spite and Malice). Shanghai is a progressive rummy game which includes having to “buy” cards in order to fulfill the proscribed ” runs” or ” books” designated for each of the 10 or so rounds. Mother was certain that the other players, usually Bill and me, were purposefully withholding the very cards she needed and that at some point in the game it became increasingly obvious that it would be next to impossible for her to make her books and/or “runs.” Now it starts,” she would grumble and we would grin and repeat her mantra until everyone at the table was chorusing “Now it starts!”
Hearing that chorus followed by the good-natured laughter was indeed music to my ears. This was the very reason I had arranged this weekend outing which would bring our family together in one small, cozy space away from our usual chores and the distractions of busy lives. Thinking of my mother during a silly card game was a sweet reminder that we never know what little moments of our past times together will be fondly remembered.
Earlier that same afternoon, Bill and I sat with our “girls” reminiscing about their childhoods, the numerous moves we had to make, the friends they had to leave behind, the schools, teachers, old cars, but mostly about the fun and freedom they experienced growing up in six or seven houses, apartments, and condos all within a 100-mile radius in South Carolina.
They laughed at how Kim always teased Leslie, younger by 4 and a half years, that she had been left by gypsies; how Leslie was often bullied and terrorized by Kim’s older friends, but how Leslie always kept coming back for more, demanding that she be allowed to play with the “Big Kids.” They both agreed that those and other things like school paddlings (their own and those of schoolmates), scraped knees and bloodied noses were rites of passage that made them strong, each thankful that their antics were not privy to the world through social media!
Seeing my children, now beautiful grown women, playfully (and dutifully) posing for the two dozen pictures I “assigned” in order to complete the Scavenger Hunt was memorable. I pray that someday in the future they will laugh and say, “Remember that time when Mother ….”
I admit I was a little surprised and very appreciative of the attitudes with which both my daughters entered into the spirit of “the Hunt.” Many times over the years, my suggestions have been met with moans and eye rolling. Know what I mean? Sort of dampens things, doesn’t it?
Not this weekend. Each brought her own brand of humor and both brought a camaraderie I had not seen since they really were just “girls.” For once, we were a Team. No competition among us, only a race against other family groups and the clock! Was it excitement, or was it just the two of them working together (and with me) in order to get the “chore” done quickly? I choose to believe that they were having Pure, Unadulterated FUN! And I was part of that FUN. Later, after we had proudly “turned in” our contest photos, Bill and I watched our daughters and their husbands march off single file into the woods, laughing and chattering. I loved watching them set off on their own adventure.
Two hours later, dripping with perspiration but with big smiles of accomplishment, the four marched back in. Kim extended her glistening wrist (the familiar diamond tennis bracelet outshone the sweat, but only by a little!), to show me the face of her fancy-smancy watch. It read 6.38. Not exactly the two mile hike they had planned, armed with a sketchy little map of the parklands. Nope. There wasn’t any map made which would insure that my girls wouldn’t blaze their own trail.

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