What makes a Sunday morning even better? Flipping hot pumpkin pancakes over the griddle while listening to your kids play Monopoly with your parents. L. loves the game, and could play it uninterrupted for hours if given the chance. When I was growing up my brother and sister and I would set up a game on the dining room table and play and play until we had to clear it all up for dinner. I still love a good Monopoly challenge, but let’s face it, the game goes on forever and I seldom have the time to set aside hours to play it to its completion (who does?). But the great, great thing about having your parents visit on a fall weekend is that they will, unlike you, the busy parent, gladly start a Monopoly game at 7:00 pm the evening before and just as willingly take it up again at 8:00 the next morning (before coffee) when their pajama clad grandson is bursting with impatience to stake his claim on Boardwalk.
I grew up playing games with my family. We didn't have a weekly game night, or anything organized like that, but we always played a game or two or three on New Year's Eve, and often on weekends, and we spent many summer afternoons playing games when we visited our grandparents in Greece. Our favorite was the card game Bull!, a game my sister and I used to play with our uncle on the long, languid afternoons following a heavy Sunday lunch. My grandparents would retreat to their bedroom after lunch for a rest, and my grandmother would do the crossword puzzle or read her magazines while my grandfather dozed. When my uncle was around we would break up the monotony created by the sleeping grown-ups by trying to rally his interest in a game of Bull! played under the lilacs shading the veranda. We pestered him to play with us until he finally gave in, set his large sheets of music aside (he is a composer), made himself a huge iced coffee and sipped at the stiff tan froth while we dealt the cards.
We had so many favorite games as kids: Monopoly, of course, and Scrabble, and this one was one of our all-time favorites (I'm so happy to see it's still a round!), and this one, too. My brother particularly loved this card game, and for a good few years one of our favorite games was a Hobbit board game, that came complete with round, colored jewels and Hobbit character game pieces.
Playing games together, like family dinners, really does bring people together. (It can also tear them apart briefly, of course, especially when a certain older brother manages to acquire all the coveted property AND cleans out his sister in rent payments.) But my heart swelled with happiness and contentment this weekend, the way it often does these days when I watch my kids with my parents--when I see that beautiful door opened up in my own warm kitchen, that portal into days that are long gone, that belong to the past, to a summer afternoon, to a time when my grandparents live again, and I'm a kid, squabbling over cards, under the purple-scented lilacs.