A PLACE FOR ME TO FIGURE IT OUT.
I rarely played board games growing up. My family plays cards. The first time I played Black Jack was when I was seven years old. My dad sat my older brother and I down at the kitchen table with a deck of playing cards and a plastic bin full of coins. We each were given ten dimes and Dad dealt the hands; we were allowed to keep our winnings. Throughout the years I learned all kinds of card games from poker to Uno and everything in between. With a deck of cards no one is bored. Every family event, whether it was a dinner, a holiday, a camping trip, or the weekly park day, there were cards and there were people up for some family competition. We would gather around extended tables extended longer with other tables on the ends, bring out the poker chips and pool the money into a red solo cup, and bring out the notepad and pencils. Before we were old enough to hold jobs, a parent or grandparent would chip in some cash to add to our Birthday savings. Then we’d play until we fell asleep on chairs, couches, and oftentimes the carpeted floor.
When I was little all of the relatives lived within a ten-minute radius of each other and we would have weekly dinners at Gramma’s house. The game would be playing on the big TV (probably the 49ers but I honestly don’t know), my Bapa would stand outside on the deck smoking Marlboros and yell through the screen until his face maintained a sweet cherry-red. Then he’d come inside and take his seat at head of the table and join in on the next round. Repeat. There was nothing ever quite like a table of thirteen-or-so people playing Nerdts and yelling all night. The energy is intoxicating.
When I first learned how to play Nerdts my hands weren’t big enough to properly shuffle cards, which resulted in the classic fan-and-swirl move for too many years and I was always in negative points. Even still I couldn’t get enough of the game.
Nerdts has rules, and if you don’t follow the rules-or you win too many times in a row-you received a dozen angry voices threatening your eardrums. And that’s when Bapa’s wasn’t the only cherry face in the room (it’s amazing we could still hug each other at the end of the night). And here is how the game works:
First, you place twelve cards in a pile face down with a thirteenth card face up. Next to that you place four more cards to the left of the pile also face up. Once the “go” is sounded you flip through your deck of cards by threes (always threes) and play a game of solitaire…with everyone else. Once the first ace is out on the table it’s game on. You are allowed only one playing hand. To avoid slipping up, keep your deck in your non-dominant hand at all times during the game. The goal of this game: get rid of your stack of thirteen card and play as many cards out at possible while outsmarting your opponents and playing your cards much faster than them to their complete despair. If you should get rid of your “pile” you then can proceed to shout, “nerdts!” at your leisure for an extra twenty-five points, therefore ending the game. Mind you, if you should choose not to shout it immediately after moving your pile in order to play more points, then be wary of the other players nerdtsing before you do. This may seem obvious but you wouldn’t believe how often it has happened. Always guaranteed in this game: shouting, dramatic arm gestures, and cherry red faces. Classic.
I had always found it interesting how my dad would never play Nerdts with us, it has happened twice in my lifetime, but that was because I never saw or could understand who he was. There are always new things to learn about people because life is ever changing; especially those who are closest to us. I never really saw my dad for who he was until he told my mom to leave when I was nineteen. I was a sophomore in college. Very few people know that my parents are separated because I got tired of telling people; not because I don’t want people to know, but because everyone’s reactions are full of the expectations of a traumatic experience, a “life-changing event.” There are so many things in this world that can change a life that I don’t understand why most of the things placed in this category are labeled as traumatic. Was my parents’ separation life-changing? Yes, of course. Has it been a traumatic and wounding experience? No, it hasn’t, so stop projecting. At first I was shocked and confused and wouldn’t speak to my dad; but that lasted for only five days. Once I knew the truth from all three sides I became overcome with the most welcomed sense of peace; because, I finally had the chance to understand my parents as separate people, as individuals. I now have the opportunity to learn things about them that I would have never known or understood otherwise: Things about life, relationships, choices, consequences, and how strengths and weaknesses can dictate your life without you realizing. This, to me, is a gift. Now I see and understand qualities of character that drive my mom to love playing cards and my dad to feel otherwise. What’s even greater is that now I understand two sides of myself more fully than before: one that sits and laughs while games are sounding in the background, and one that plays cards.