My family has a gambling tradition. Not in a speakeasy sense, and not in a back room, loan shark, police raid sense (which, as I type out, would probably also be in a speakeasy sense). More in a good, clean, holiday tradition sense.
Years ago, when I was younger, my family would rent out a Lion’s Club – not to be confused with an adult themed store of a similar name – to hold Thanksgiving. Our family is a bit of a patchwork, and this made it easy for everyone to get together in a large enough space where we could eat, play video games, eat, play board games, eat, and the adults could play cards. I say gambling, and it is, but it’s gambling in a loose meaning of the word. If gambling was a scale with one being church bingo and ten having your home foreclosed and the last minutes of your life spent in fear of a guy named Charlie who’s seven-foot-something and wields various blunt instruments, we’d be a two or a soft three. My family plays games Google tells me are real, games called Kansas City and Spit, all for dime and quarter antes which comes out to maybe five or ten bucks, depending on how things go and who’s playing. Each family member has a tin or a Tupperware container they keep loose change in throughout the year for the sole purpose of Thanksgiving (and Christmas) after-meal cards which often creep into the wee-morning hours. What’s nice is the money stays within the family, usually being passed around year to year from one person to the next, in much the same way my buddy and I have a long-standing tradition where for my December birthday he ponies up for a movie ticket, and for his June, I pony up, ending the year in a dual net loss.
Where some families have the kid table and the adult table, we had the kid table, and the card table, which was really the same thing. Though eighteen means little for maturity, at such an age you were deemed respectable enough to have kin rob you blind, and thus a graduate from the video games and the board games to more two/soft three staked competitions. If this sounds silly, it isn’t, this event being far more momentous than my first kiss or obtaining my driver’s license or prom (all, incidentally, happening around the same time, as a “late bloomer”), a right of passage handed down generationally the way our ancient forefathers would have taught their children to hunt and make cave murals, back when we still feared fire.
When I think of turkey, this is what I imagine, a smoky room growing incrementally louder as the night wore on, my Aunts Sharon and Vicky yelling “Spit!” while slapping the table, both also growing incrementally louder as the night wore on and inventing words Carlin may have substituted a few of his seven for, kids making laps within a table-barred track first on big wheels, then skates, then roller blades, then scooters, these all changing as we grew taller. Every year I brought the newest system, and we’d huddle around a 13 inch and yell at the screen.
Now the kids are grown. Out of the house. Most have families of their own. We don’t do the Lion’s Club thing any more. Too spread out, and no one wants to go through the hassle of trying to set the whole thing up. It’s odd when you look back on something fondly while being okay with not experiencing it again. We’re not talking lightning in a bottle, but I know it wouldn’t be the same were we to get together next year and go through those same steps. I’m not sure how long it’s been – five years now, maybe more – or if I realized the last time was the last, but it’s a tradition I think ended with my generation. We still play cards though now in my mom’s basement, and the pots of five or ten dollars are closer to one-and-a-half or two, as our numbers are less. Company is still good.
This year we went to Bob Evans. Last year it was Golden Corral, and they have a chocolate fountain I was legitimately looking forward to this time around. It was just mom, my wife, me, Uncle Wayne, and Aunt Vicky. That was good too, though. Quieter – which is a little double-edged – but quality still. I’m lucky in that I’ve always gotten along with my family. We’re not necessarily the same people, but we are. They’re the most accepting group I know, and just… solid. Even when my parents divorced, dad was always still invited, and no one treated him any different. Everyone worked on Friday, so no cards, and mom is in Florida this year with Sharon, so no Christmas cards either. Saves money.
Bob Evans was tasty, but the pie sucked. Hope your Thanksgivings were equal or better.