I didn’t expect it when I opened the box. The intense rush of feelings that flooded over me as I not just looked at, but felt the feeling in the cards. I’ve opened a ton of these, old games acquired in garage sales, previous loved goodies waiting to find new homes. One of the main reasons I love the store is getting a chance to find ways to get families to spend more time with each other, using the games an excuse to connect. I know this, I do it all the time. But knowing it in your head is one thing….feeling it in your heart is something else. I found two games yesterday, one of which turned out to have my Dad inside, the other had my grandfather.
I had a hint at how important games could be last Halloween, that I wrote about once before. It was this tall dad (looked like a professional sports player guy) and his probably 9 year old daughter. They came in to trick or treat, but both of them lit up like fireflies when they saw what kind of store they had walked into. She moved from game to game with a look that, when matched with her dad’s, immediately revealed the image of days spent, sprawled out on a floor together, playing games. For them, they looked at the games, and what they saw wasn’t fun, it was love. Nothing more, nothing less. I still think about them once in a while and it’s hard not to feel my heart fill too. .
The games I picked up yesterday were Mille Borne and Chinese Checkers. This particular copy of Mille Borne was from 1971. It could have been the copy I played a thousand times with my Dad when I was a kid, and as I felt the worn softness of the cards, it was not a memory as much as an emotional evocation that hit me so hard. Sounds or smells can have the same effect, but I didn’t expect it from the game. My dad was a big game player, but hadn’t picked up so well that it’s not only ok for parents to lose to their kids, but that it is actually an kind of an art. But Milles Borne had this great blend of strategy and chance that evened things out. Somehow there were a ton of life lessons in that game. Do you speed like crazy for the finish line, getting less points but going for the quick win, Putting down your super protections in advance, or holding on, waiting for the whoo hoo moment of a Coup-fourré. I think that’s the moment I remember most….it was satisfying as heck to beat my dad, both cause it felt good and because even then I knew that it made him proud when I could beat him. But it reminded me in a very visceral way why playing games with your kids isn’t a extra thing to do if you have time…but something that will live with them forever.
Chinese Checkers is my grandfather…or at least brings him back to life for me whenever I see a set, particularly an old set. The family legend is that he brought Chinese Checkers into the country. I did a bunch of research and their may be some truth to it. He was an entrepreneurial guy. An immigrant who got a job as a buyer at the May Company (think early Macy’s) based on completely made up experience. The story of how he brought Chinese Checkers to Leo Pressman, founder of Pressman Toys (and the lawsuit for a whopping $5000 that let him open a furniture store in Denver), I’ll save for another day.