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Small Thoughts

On Crazy Eights and world peace – Not A Memoir, Part 5

Cindy Gabriel
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Faires Weber, Cindy Gabriel

NOT EXACTLY POKER FACE Two-year-old Faires (pronounced Ferris) Weber spots another Crazy Eight in Grandma's hand as they play against four-year-old Eli on a Saturday at Grandma’s country house in Hunt, Texas. (Photo: Julia Weber)

"Let’s play again!” Four-year-old Eli’s face changed from pouty to hopeful after losing his third round of Crazy Eights to his grandma. I, the grandma, was committed to the idea that Eli would learn to play the hand he was dealt, with his mom, Julia, overseeing. But as evidenced by the expression on my two-year-old Lap Assistant’s face, Grandma was getting all the Crazy Eights. It wasn’t about skill. The cards just fell my way.

Life (and Grandma) can be brutal at times. “That’s it!” My daughter, Julia, had enough of me and my so-called teaching principles.

Julia took over the shuffling and dealing, making sure Eli had the winning hand. I’m not proud to say this, but a part of me was actually enjoying winning, not against Eli, but his mom, by proxy. I clearly have some growing up to do.

Because of writing about being four in this Not a Memoir series, my own four-year-old self never seems far away. At least now, the four-year-old I’m reliving gets to play with other kids, my own grandkids.

When Julia and the boys headed home after a day-long visit, I went back to feel the warmth from that spot where we communed around that card game.

When I started this series, I thought it would touch on the first 13 years in Rosenberg briefly before moving to Houston, my “real life.” Now I’m starting to think that these early days were the most real of all.

If I had not been writing about playing “Old Maid” with Aunt Jessie last month, I doubt I would have been in the mindset to pick up that deck of Crazy Eights cards in that Fredericksburg store that has nothing but old toys from the ’50s.

I have never considered my childhood idyllic. But childhood itself, especially in its earliest form, is the most unfiltered, authentic version of human experience I may ever have. The more I remember, the more I remember; the oddly comforting feelings, the adrenaline rushes, the warmth of acceptance, even the boredom that led to deep imaginary play.

Watching my parents at their typewriters in the newspaper office, with people standing outside waiting for the latest issue, I must have sensed that those words were somehow causing a rippling effect, for better or worse.

It makes me think about the importance of words and how they can be tossed around so casually, through our cell phones and televisions, showing us at our very worst. There is an instant field of energy in a space between two people when they are together. Maybe that’s what Scripture means, where two or three are together, there I am (paraphrased). That’s one tradition. Yours may say it a different way. If we were together, we could share and compare.

I wonder if I can say anything that will help make a little ripple. My four-year-old self would say that we need to get together and play more games, real games, not the kind on your phone. That stack of Crazy Eights cards feels a lot like a cell phone in the palm of your hand.

Next I think I’ll add Yahtzee, then checkers, then dominoes, and chess to my grandchildren’s game repertoire, before I’m deemed irrelevant. Who knows, this might even be the answer to world peace.

Back in the Jim Crow days, as one story goes, a Black man and a Caucasian man were spotted on a front porch playing checkers in Alabama. Scenes like this and others where people crossed racial lines to be human together resulted in a series of laws to ensure our separation. A 1930 ordinance in Birmingham, Alabama declared: “It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other in any game of cards or dice, dominoes or checkers.” (Smithsonian National Museum of American History, americanhistory.si.edu)

My brain hurts from trying to wrap itself around the issues that come through our TVs and cell phones to divide us. Maybe we should just sit on front porches, around school campuses, and in town squares, and play a little checkers or Crazy Eights. Most big ideas start with small ones.

“People fail to get along because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Editor's note: This is part 5 of Cindy Gabriel's "not a memoir" series. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here

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