Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sibling Assignment #79: Christian Brothers Cribbage

InlandEmpireGirl asked us three siblings to write a piece on this:

Many hours of our childhood were spent playing games. Share a memory that involved playing a game(es).
You can scratch your Yahtzee with InlandEmpireGirl, here and tear through Mr. Anderson's bushes playing hide and seek with Silver Valley Girl, here.

All I remember about playing Canasta is that it involved about eight decks of cards and about a pack of Pall Malls for Mom, and it must have been a sad game because someone always cried when we played.

All I remember about Monopoly is that Grandma Woolum told us she got so sick of her kids fighting when they played Monopoly that one day during a heated game she tore the board away from her kids and threw it in the trash burner and torched it.

I do, however, have much happier memories of playing cribbage with my father.


I must have been about thirteen or fourteen years old when one of my aunts or cousins from Orofino gave me a cribbage board for Christmas.

I had no idea what it was. I took the board out of the box and all I saw was holes. They weren't numbered and I could see no purpose for it.

"What's this?"

"I'll show you later, Son. Wait until things settle down."

I don't know if things settled down that Christmas Day, but in the next day or two Dad got out a deck of cards, poured himself a brandy over ice, lit up a Camel straight, and began patiently explaining 15 two, 15 four, nibs, crib, double runs, suited Jacks and the other ins and outs of cribbage.

We played a few hands where he showed me what to do and then a game where he showed me what to do and before long I was on my own and Dad and I found something in addition to watching games on television that we enjoyed doing together.

Our games were calm. Unlike Yahtzee, as InlandEmpireGirl described, where Dad would blow into the cup and rattle the dice under his arm pits and plead with the "bones" to do his will, when it came to cribbage, we played quietly and respectfully.

I began to learn how to form a good hand for getting points in the first play, how to disguise my hand, what the juicy hands were, and how to keep my concentration and make difficult decisions about which cards to keep, which to throw away.

For some reason, I always enjoyed Dad drinking brandy when we played. Because we had to give a lot of attention to our cards, Dad drank the brandy slowly and I enjoyed watching beads of condensation form on his brandy glass as the ice slowly melted and diluted his brandy.

When I turned nineteen and was of legal drinking age, I started drinking brandy on ice when we played.

Our drinking together over cribbage made me feel like I was becoming an adult and that Dad and I were on more equal grounds with each other, not only in cards, but as guys.

Sometimes, usually around Christmas, Dad would buy a bottle of Crown Royal whiskey. This was long before single malt scotches and bourbons began to clutter the landscape of fine liquor. For us, Crown Royal was the top of the line. If we drank Christian Brothers brandy slowly, we took almost imperceptibly small sips from our Crown Royal glasses and heaved sighs of pleasure and eloquently expressed our pleasure: "Now, that's good shit."

In my early thirties, I decided alcohol was getting the best of me and I quit drinking. That was January of 1985. Dad and I still played the occasional game of cribbage when I came home to Kellogg for the holidays, but it wasn't the same.

The cards were good, but I could tell Dad didn't enjoy drinking his brandy or whiskey as much alone as when we sipped them together.

In the fall of 1996, I decided to see if I could drink alcohol again.

But, Dad had died in June.

I started drinking again too late.

If I had it to do over again, I would still have quit drinking alcohol in 1985.

But, I wouldn't have been so rigid. I wish I would have said to Dad, "You know, I quit drinking this shit, but I think for a few games of cribbage, it won't hurt me if we have a glass or two of Christian Brothers brandy with you."

2 comments:

Inland Empire Girl said...

I agree... for a few games of cribbage, it wouldn't have hurt. Thank goodness you didn't ever reach for the "rotgut" Carstairs during those games.

Taryn Hecker said...

This is beautiful. Grandpa taught me how to play cribbage and today when I went to sit with him at the hospital to wait while Grandma got her pacemaker tuned, I packed my cribbage board and a deck of cards in my purse. We got halfway through, him winning of course, before the nurse came out to tell us Grandma was fine. I'm sure if we'd finished he woulda kicked my ass.