Game night

We went to “The Muppet Movie” over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I wanted to see the new George Clooney movie, but Hannah talked us into the Muppets, which was a feel-good-smile-through-the-whole-thing movie. Perfect for extending that warm tummy kind of holiday mood.  

Following our delightful together time, the three of us walked into the house, each picked up our laptops, headed to our favorite spots in the house and began communicating with the rest of our respective worlds. Stop! Why? Where was the family part of this? How did we go from having a family time to a cyber time?  

Habit.

Years ago, we’d spend entire evenings together playing board games, not yet owning personal screens. Not the screens on the windows, but the ones on our laptop, smart phones, e-readers and so on.

The togetherness of sitting around a table or, when the kids were small and my knees more flexible, on the floor, playing board games is what I wanted for a family evening. We talked to one another as we worked out our personal game strategies. The banter on how long someone took to make what seems to the rest of us an obvious move, how someone was always forgetting whose turn it was, or, seriously, did they have to make that move, was priceless.

One of our favorite games was Sorry, where you attempt to get your four pieces home without one of the other players knocking you back to Start and saying “Sorry.” We each had our colors, so we didn’t have to decide each game if we were blue or yellow or whatever. Our adult strategy changed over the years as the kids grew. When the girls were really little, we tried to let them get their players “Home.” As their skills grew, they had no problem saying “Sorry!” to us. Repeatedly. So, as the years went on, we played all out — which meant games could go on forever. Perfect.  

Chicken Foot eventually took over as the game of choice. It’s a domino game played with double dominoes which come in sets of Double 6s, 9s or 12s. A double 12 game can take hours — my first choice. We’ve taught this game to exchange students, other families and just about anyone who says out loud that they like games. Its rules are too long to explain here, but not difficult. Just Google it to discover a really pleasurable evening of strategy and craziness. With a game called Chicken Foot, what besides silliness would you expect?

When I’ve tried to recreate one of those game nights lately, there are more interruptions. Someone gets a text, a break is called to check email, and the electronic world pushes in. My games have moved to the computer, too. I admit I’m addicted to Spider Solitaire to the point that I removed all games from my main computer. In desperation one night when I couldn’t sleep, I searched for an online version. My cyber prayers were answered. I try to limit my online solitaire to reward time — if I accomplish a particular onerous task I allow myself to play one to three games depending on the hideous nature of the completed task. But it is as the name suggests, I play this game solo.

In spirit, I’m more partial to the group event with voices rising as the tension grows and as laughter takes over at a brilliantly stupid move, usually by my husband Dan, who sometimes laughs along.  

Take an evening off from your screens. Invite the neighbors if you don’t have enough game players in the household. Enjoy the pleasure of laughter, togetherness and seriously cheap thrills. The screens can come back in the morning. And it is a long winter.

Welcome Jerde is a new columnist for the Southwest Journal. She lives in Lynnhurst with her husband, Dan Berg, a dog, two cats, and occasionally, Hannah, a college student.