Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stop, look, and listen.

My father and mother loved games. Actually so do my sibs who are all, may I say, fantastic strategic thinkers. Only in the last few years has it dawned on me that because I am of the deep-slow thinking type (as opposed to the quick witted), games of mental agility are really difficult for me. If I do have the capacity for strategic thought, it is not as useful as it is for the intellectually quick. I can come up with strategies, but by the time these plans have formed in my head and I've been able to sleep on them, think on them, discover a language to describe them, the game is long over.

If I could draw cartoons, right here I would feature myself, cartooned, rushing into a room. A card table and chairs are set up. Cards are strewn across the table. Ashtrays are overflowing. Everywhere is the scattered detritus of a game night - popcorn, bridge mix, empty beer bottles. In the cartoon I'm shouting, "I FIGURED IT OUT! I KNOW what to do next!" There is no one in the room, the sun is shining in the window. The game is over and everyone has gone home.

Anyway I'm thinking about it because one game my father loved playing with us around the dinner table (when he was in a good mood) was this: Out of the blue he would ask us to close our eyes. Then we were each to describe everything we could about what/who was in the room, on the table, etc. He asked us, "What is your sister wearing today?" and such. It was very interesting. After awhile, we were allowed to open our eyes, to notice what actually was in the room, on the table. Of course what each of us noticed varied rather dramatically from the remembered scenes of our sisters.

The next part of the game was my favorite. Papa would deliver a dharma talk about paying attention, being present. If we were to witness a crime, we would want to be able to provide accurate testimony, for instance. He made the game practical by telling us how we might make use of mindfulness. I loved that! His dharma talks frequently carried the scent of regret that those who lived through World War II experienced. For my father and mother, the idea that while the Holocaust was going on there was a huge, culture-wide denial that took over - this idea chilled them to the bone. People knew it was happening, but could not see it any better than I saw all the things on the dinner table. I always heard an echo under Papa's dharma talks about how if only people had seen it, acted against it, if only, maybe so many would not have died. It was a very heavy burden for that generation.

Papa's idea of game playing almost always included a dharma talk. It gave meaning to the experience for me, even though I never ever guessed correctly. It was a provocative game that made me think, and probably inspired me to practice mindfulness as I have all these years. Thanks, Papa, wherever you are.

Remember Trivial Pursuits? I froze up every time I tried to play. I couldn't even remember my middle name, let alone anything else. It was so embarrassing! And there seemed to be no point to it except fun. There was certainly no dharma lesson inherent in the game.

I am so not about trivial pursuits on any level. Cheers.


jeanette from everton terrace said...

I love your father's game. Will be trying that one out at one of my future gatherings. Is that what formed the amazing observer in you? You seem to see things just a little bit differently, always evident in your photos.

We are big game players. My husband and I play Racko over breakfast and dinner every single day. We switch games up from year to year and have "tournaments". Every Friday night we get together with our close friends for a night of games at home, something we all look forward to each week.
There are other things in my life though, where I'm like you. I need to see, in my mind, how something will be finished before I can start. I once went with a friend to a scrapbook party thing and by the end of the evening everyone had finished several pages, I hadn't started - was still formulating the entire book in my head.
Love that flower photo, very pretty.

Reya Mellicker said...

I play words with friends and scramble with my sibs and friends all the time. Very fun! They mostly beat the crap outta me. Sometimes I win. It's just a game! But very fun.

steven said...

reya i love games but i have this little challenge with games and that is to memorzie and then follow the rules . . . without being obtuse or whatever else term could be laid on me . . . i end up inadvertently breaking the rules . . . and so i get this stoked up feeling of winning only to have it dashed donw by a phrase on a little thin piece of paper that says . . . .. steven

X said...

This story from your childhood is so revealing and intimate. How trauma informs the life lessons at a kitchen to impart lessons of observance. How beautiful this interior snapshot is.

Reya Mellicker said...

Steven, I too love playing by the rules. They hold and contain - ahhh ...

I asked my sister Deborah why it's so fun to win. She said it's like finding a $5 in your pocket, a little rush. That makes perfect sense to me.

Reya Mellicker said...

Steven, love it that you inevitably color outside the lines!