Monday, June 14, 2010
Patience is the Name of a Game of Cards (9.19.09)
I have a vision, a still unrealized vision, of my family of four. In the picture in my head we are sitting at a round table, playing a game of cards. Nothing fancy or complicated, just Go Fish or maybe Crazy Eights. Even War would be fun, but that game might be too challenging for four-year old Nora, who still needs to stop and think before she remembers that ten is more than nine.
We have a long way to go before this vision becomes real. Six-year old Mia still insists to the point of tears on winning any competitive games she plays. She's happiest engaged in fantasy play with no clear winner or loser, narrating elaborate adventures for her little plastic animals and magnet fairies. When Mom or Dad try to join in, we usually end up being chastised by our little megalomaniac as if she were directing a Hollywood blockbuster. "No, no, no! You need to move the kitty like THIS!"
There's another obstacle to the realization of my dream-evening. My husband has been working crazy hours. On the weekends when he is not at the office, we pack our days with outings. We don't often have the luxury of empty time with all four of us together. When both parents are at home at the same time, it's such a rare treat that I usually choose to go for a run or attempt to scale our perpetual mountain of laundry.
It's funny how the things we long for the most can be what we prevent ourselves from receiving. There was a period in my life when playing cards seemed the picture of boredom and mindlessness. My grandmother Amelia and her sister Julia did try to teach me their favorite game one summer night long ago at a card table in their cool linoleum-tiled basement. I tried to pay attention to the complicated rules, but all I could think about was boys. Mysterious boys who made my stomach leap and my cheeks burn, even when they weren't around. Boys who, I was sure, wouldn't be caught dead in a round of bridge.
What I would give now for that sweet hour with those sweet ladies again. Now I know the pleasure of the game is found in the company, not in deciphering the code of black and red shapes on the cards. But this hard-earned lesson doesn't make the chance of our family game happening soon any more likely.
Perhaps it is the flawless surface of my dream image that keeps it out of my reach: the perfect circle of the table inscribed within the four of us, our heads making the four points of a square. Easy laughter, easy give and take, trust, confidence, comfort. No fighting, no whining, no explosions. No regrets or threats. No drama. Can we just have one night with no drama? One night? IS ONE NIGHT WITH NO DRAMA TOO MUCH TO ASK!? (See note above about preventing the very things we long for.)
Seriously, I don't feel like I'm expecting all that much. It's not like I'm picturing my daughters graduating with honors or winning fancy awards. I just want a little family togetherness acted out a very particular and personally specific way - which is what makes it so elusive. Picturing myself in a new and positive scenario, say, running a 5K, seems much more likely than arranging our four strong personalities with our four sets of desires and four different conceptions of fun.
The Buddhists say that desire is the source of all suffering, but the good sense of this idea doesn't make it any easier to achieve.
Patience is the name of a card game I have never played. I just need to wait, to let go, to open my mind to other moments of family happiness. We do have alternate versions of togetherness. The best are often spontaneous and unplanned. When we lift the girls by the arms as they call out "One, two, three, jump!" Or when we play variations on this game, where I dip down instead of lifting or where Mommy and Daddy do the jumping. It ain't cards, but the fun and the company can't be beat.