One of the great things about being one of three kids in the family was that there was usually someone to play with. With the exception of chess, a game my brothers felt I could never play well enough to command any reasonable level of competition, my brothers were usually willing to play some type of board or card game with me. My brother Stuart was always up for a good game of Scrabble. At age 12 he had the vocabulary of a Pulitzer prize winning author. He could find an open “a” on the board and come up with a word like “ka” which we would immediately challenge but unfortunately quickly realize was a real word referencing a Predynastic pharaoh of Upper Egypt. The “k” would undoubtedly be placed on a triple-letter square that was also a triple-word square or something equally ridiculous, and he would end up with 5,000 points at the end of round one. Today lots of people have heard of the word ka, but they know it as another Cirque de Soleil show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and I think using it in this manner goes against the official rules of Scrabble. I would generally follow up on my turn with a word like “it” garnering two points.
Stuart was so smart, that had my parents thought more about how to exploit this, they could have gotten him on Jeopardy and the prize money could have been used to send their less intelligent daughter to private school. No category would have been too demanding for Stuart. I could see him selecting “18th Century Russian novelists with speech impediments for $200” or “Unusual stamps of the 19th Century Depicting the Industrial Revolution for $500” without missing a beat and nailing the answer every time.
After being sufficiently humiliated with games requiring a command of the English language, my brothers would give me a reprieve and we would engage in games requiring less brain power. When my brother Jeffrey was about ten, he was able to request a copy of an original Star Trek script from NBC. I was no Trekkie, but didn’t want to be left out, so when Jeffrey decided to stage a production of “The Trouble With Tribbles” in our home, I was all over it. Jeffrey played Kirk, Stuart was fittingly Spock and I was Ohura and whatever female characters were fawning all over William Shatner that day. I can’t remember who played Scotty or the Tribbles for that matter, but it was a lot of fun.
Following this, we would move on to a board game, often Monopoly. I think Monopoly was invented for families with a lot of kids, because kids are the only people who will suffer through the three-plus hours it takes to complete this game. I usually ended up with my hotels taken over by my brothers, hocked property and many more tears than could fill my thimble playing piece, but I always came back for more. Luckily, we would find Risk a few years later and Jeffrey would always manage to place all his armies in the tip of South America and conquer the world within 20 minutes.
One of my favorite games was one I played with Jeffrey before Scrabble or Monopoly were even an option. In my bedroom, the room with all the unwanted furniture, there was a rotisserie that was only wheeled out once a year on Thanksgiving. It sat under a plastic cover, the kind you see old people place over their toasters, but this one was industrial size. We weren’t supposed to mess with the rotisserie, but we did anyway because it had a timer on it that was fun to play with. We would set the timer, lay on the bed, and when the timer went off we would roll onto the floor and pretend we had been transported into another time, where there were dinosaurs or knights on horses or astronauts in outer space.
As my brothers got older they stopped playing as many games with me and turned their attention to other pursuits. When Jeffrey was about 12, he invited a bunch of his friends over to the house. They made a huge tent in my brothers’ room, by placing blankets across the two beds and using World Book Encyclopedia’s to hold their makeshift canopy in place. They told me I couldn’t come in. I managed to quietly open the door and slither my way into the room on my stomach so they wouldn’t see me. I peered under the bed near the entrance of the room to see what they were doing. They were playing cards…poker…strip poker. After seeing more than I cared to of one of my brother’s best friends, I realized my days playing simple games with my brothers were numbered.