Wildscapes Workshop

A Mind-Boggling Thanksgiving Staycacation

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Can you find hope in the middle of this Boggle game? Nothing like a game of Boggle to save a family staycation!

The elusive dream trip was cancelled. For years, our family has been on a mission to spend Thanksgiving with my sister’s family in the brisk fall foliage of Virginia but, once again, things didn't quite work out that way.

Now that five precious days off of work and school and a highly anticipated trip had turned into a staycation, I was on a quest to save this special family bonding time. Our son will go off to college before we know it. Time is ticking. I fiercely brainstormed the magic formula for a frugal accountant dad, a holiday-aholic mom and a teenage son to share quality time together without too much money spent, screen time watched or grey hair pulled. 

I start throwing out ideas…

"Friendsgiving" dinner with friends?
A sorry to regretfully decline RSVP.

Annual 5K Turkey Trot around the Galleria mall?
Couch potato can’t find tennis shoes.

Movie theater including popcorn with real butter?
Two butterless thumbs down. 

A romp through the dog park?
Eye rolls (even from Fido).

I thought I was on a roll. This was looking worse than canned congealed cranberry sauce.

By the fourth night, I finally break them. We decide to make pizza and play board games. Amazingly, all three of us manage to stay seated for longer than three minutes without using cell phones. 

After a few rounds of the game "Spot It,” our son pitches that he and Dad play Xbox. I protest the use of electronics (the dreaded family-bonding arch enemy.) Plus, the game is only for two people.

We strike a deal. They can use the dreaded Xbox under the condition we first play an old-fashion game of Boggle…my favorite word game. A real sacrifice on Dad’s part because he dreads this game. He's more of a numbers guy than an alphabet guy, so my son or I tend to win (Junior inherited that side of my brain!).

In Boggle, all the players e have three minutes to write words they can spell from the game’s 16 shaken-up dice that have letters on them instead of numbers. When time is up, players take turns reading the words they created. Points are awarded for original words.

We shake the dice. Our son reads the 11 or so words he found. My husband or I have nine of them, so he gets two points. (Duplicate words don’t count.) I read the remaining words on my list and end up with three points. I am feeling smug. Next up is my accountant hubby. 

Then it happens...the Thanksgiving miracle.

Most of the words my husband had found were duplicates so his sheet was mainly scratch-offs; he didn’t have any points yet and there weren’t many words left on his sheet. The vein on his forehead starts bulging. My son and I braced ourselves for the entertaining-but-predictable “This game is so stupid” spiel. His voice already downtrodden, he mutters the word "hope."

What? He repeats the word “hope” a little louder. My son and I scan our sheets. Neither of us had written down the word “hope.” All three of us look at each other skeptically then turn our eyes toward the dice on the table. We’re all thinking Dad must have gotten confused on the order of the letters. But sure enough, sitting right in the middle of all the other letters, is H-O-P-E … the word hope.

Dad is beaming. My son and I are cracking up. After many long years he finally found a word we hadn't. We high-five and share a “this is a family memory in the making” chuckle. Dad is suddenly the world’s biggest Boggle fan.

Now Hubby actually wants to play another round of Boggle. We start shaking the dice, ready to challenge Mr. Hope. This is the best Thanksgiving staycation ever!

Eventually the Hallmark-couldn’t-have-scripted-it-better magical moment fades. The boys saunter to the couch and clutch their game controllers.

After virtually waving them goodbye, I attempt to drown out the roar of the video game and its players and take a moment to ponder the Thanksgiving Vacation Turkey gods' wink to our family.

A simple but poignant reminder that when the holidays, or any days, aren’t going as perfectly as planned, sometimes all you need is to be patient and keep trying. Marvel at the ordinary. Do something you don’t like to make someone else happy. Be thankful for what you have…including the little things… Or maybe all it takes is seeing things, like alphabet letters, in a different way.

With fingers crossed and wishbones ready to pull, sometimes in the least likely place, you just might be lucky enough to have everything roll the right way and find hope.

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