In my game closet there is a small spiral notebook with years of score keeping running through it. Red ink, black ink, doodles and stars adorn the margins and some pages have been torn out and tossed ceremonially into a trashcan. The columns are kept clearly separated and labeled for the most part “Me” and “You”. Occasionally there was a third player but those pages don’t count.
The players of course, are my sister and I. Our game of games: Scrabble.
Clear back to the opening pages, I was home with tiny children and my younger sister was doodling variations of “Mrs. B…..” with little hearts on the backside of the scoreboard while waiting for her turn and her future. Later pages have her lists of possible baby names between tile counts. This in itself will tell you who normally keeps our running tally. Big sister trumps little sister, so big sister claims to hate math and can spend the entire game accusing little sister of cheating. But I’m just too lazy to check her work. The truth is, she could rob me blind in the score keeping and I wouldn’t have a clue. There are a couple of pages that end somewhere in the middle of a game that had to be forfeited due to interrupted baby naptimes or a dinner that could no longer be delayed. But for the most part, my kid sister keeps a beautiful book of numbers.
A circled final winning score shows the end of each match. Each match brings the updated tally of wins per sister an inch closer to fame and fortune. If someone played a seven letter coup, it is duly recorded in the margin. If a truly amazing triple was played, there may be stars and notations included. Early on we played a game where my sis must have been highly caffeinated. Apparently, she broke 500 points by playing “cartels” and “leakings” along triples. Even my spell check says that last one is NOT a word. Most of the time we break 300 each by the game’s end.
You won’t hear me say it out loud. (Cheater.)
OK, so what is not written down, but guaranteed to have been a large part of the game, is the running dialogue between us, each of whom is equally skilled and both of whom have predetermined herself as the winner of a game not yet played. We sit down for our games with an aura of victory and the sure knowledge that our worthy competitor is already shaking her head in pity for our loss.
“According to the scorebook, it’s my turn to win today. You won last time.”
“Yes, but we’re playing at my house. My house, my rules. My rule: I’m winning today.”
“Did I or did I not just bring you a coffee? You have to let me win.”
“Look, I’ll prove it. I’ll draw my letter. There. See? I pulled out an H. Clearly the fates have chosen me to go first, and win the game.”
“Pfffft. There. Looking like my B is going to trump your H and me and your fates are gonna have a good laugh today.”
“We’ll just see about that. Pass me the book.”
And now a note about The Book. We have a couple of our own rules. What would be the fun of any game if you were stuck with somebody else’s rules? The game board score boxes of course make sense as do the face values of the tiles and so forth. But honestly, if I have to actually think while playing a game surrounded by children you are kidding me. I have a well used and much loved Scrabble Player’s Dictionary and it travels with the game. There’s no wasting time thinking up a word that may or may not in fact be a word, playing it, and then having to waste more time in challenging it. If you have to look it up anyway, why on earth not just do it to begin with? Sheesh.
We have discovered more new words than you can possibly imagine. We have actually discovered the reverse as well and had to pencil in words that ARE words. Why was “understand” omitted? Seriously, it’s not there, and neither is “underwear”. And there are words in there that I know for a fact can NOT be words, and yet there they are. You can take a tray of ridiculous letters that in no way shape or form are ever gonna be a word, but if on the off chance you could play a Q in the four spaces of a triple box, by golly you start thumbing through the Q section. What do you know? My, my, you learn something new every day. It never ceases to amaze me what qualifies as a word. And apparently the makers of the book left no stone unturned. We have an unspoken agreement that we won’t play a word that is in unsavory taste. Unless it gives us a bazillion points, in which case we don’t let the kids watch.
All’s fair in love and Scrabble.
(Part 2 here.)