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Reflections March 2014

Everyday Matters

Don't Play Games with Me!

By Elise Seyfried

I struggle to get into the rhythm of picking up and discarding, and as for counting points — forget about it! Well, I take that back. It is always very easy to count my points. Think of the worst score you can imagine, and then go ten steps down.

Want to get rid of me, pronto? There’s an easy way: just suggest playing a card game. If I hear the words “500 rummy” or “Hearts” or, heaven forbid, “pinochle,” I will be heading for the hills in no time flat. When it comes to playing — not to mention winning — any contest involving a deck, I am the human Two of Clubs (that’s the lowest one, right?)

I simply cannot get card rules into my thick skull. As a child, I never even got the hang of Old Maid, or Go Fish, and I truly stunk at solitaire. Later on, when the gang gathered around for a hand or two of poker, I was clueless and, soon, chipless as well.

It amazes me to hear my husband Steve explain complicated game instructions to the uninitiated. Every time he enlightens a would-be player, and I am within earshot, I listen yet AGAIN, swearing that this time I’ll retain the value of the King of Diamonds, and remember what in the world a “trick” is.

And every single time, the mere act of sitting down at the table facing my opponents wipes my brain pan clean. I struggle to get into the rhythm of picking up and discarding, and as for counting points — forget about it! Well, I take that back. It is always very easy to count my points. Think of the worst score you can imagine, and then go ten steps down. As a result, I soon lose interest. My mind wanders to tomorrow’s dinner, or the new scarf I have my eye on. When my reverie is interrupted by “Elise? Elise? Your turn!” I take another embarrassing stab at making the correct move. Cards, for me, are a form of convivial torture — and who wants to be tortured, even convivially?

Sad to say, my gaming incompetence extends far beyond hearts and spades. I’m a sorry Sorry! player, go quickly bankrupt on Ventnor Ave., and have never even attempted chess. When the little ones arrived, I couldn’t wait for Evan to be old enough to become a Candyland partner for Sheridan; playing board games with my children ranked right down there with diaper changing on my list of Dreaded Mom Chores.

Looking back, I can see exactly who on the family tree to thank for both my aptitude and attitude — my mother Joanie. Mom had ADHD ages before the term was coined, and the attention span of a gnat. She couldn’t sit still for a TV show, she couldn’t stay focused at Sunday Mass, and she was the worst game player ever (yes, worse than me). She made an attempt one time to join a bridge club, and spent the entire game gabbing away, as the über-serious aficionados frowned, then finally asked her to PLEASE be quiet and just PLAY. That, of course, was the end of bridge for my mother, forever.

Husband Steve’s clan were all, by comparison, veritable card sharks, and loved to spend the lion’s share of each family reunion dealing out Jacks and Queens and Aces to each other, keeping score laboriously, having a grand old time. Our kids inherited the Seyfried prowess; they have easily mastered an encyclopedia of games, and really enjoy playing them all. And although they graciously endure my infrequent attempts to join them, their sighs of relief when I drift away are rather audible. As I return to my book, I hear the intensity resume — shouts of victory, grumbles of defeat, and lots of strenuous card slapping on the table in between.

I’ve wondered, over the years, what the deal is with me and this type of competition. In other areas of my life I don’t usually shy away from a challenge, but in this arena I do shy away, big time. I get nervous and flustered. I hate to lose, and I hate to know (which I do) that of course I’m going to lose. I was losing at Uncle Wiggly, consistently, to Rose when she was only five. The odds of my cleaning up at the blackjack table in Vegas are pretty poor.

I tell myself, “it’s only a game,” and “everyone has different talents,” but still it bugs me that I can’t learn to enjoy something that is such a great pastime for the rest of my family. I already opt out of 90% of their bowling, 99% of their hiking and 100% of their biking. Sometimes it feels like I’m missing a really big boat: the chance to do simple and fun things together, especially now that the kids are all grown and rarely around as a group.

It’s my pride, I’ve concluded, that is holding me back, that keeps me from relaxing when I mess up. My husband and children are not a firing squad. On the contrary, they are my cheerleaders, always, in Battleship as in life. And if it doesn’t matter that I lose miserably at cribbage, doesn’t that free me up to laugh at myself? And if I’m free, maybe I can keep those nutty rules in my head — or enough of them to stay in the game.

So, OK, OK.

Deal me in, guys.


Elise blogs at, her website is or email Elise at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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