notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Best Little Things

Mom and I were reminiscing this week. And at the same time we both exclaimed,

“Playing Cards!”

In our family, as soon as a baby had the self-control not to eat the cards, she was dealt a hand.

We started with Go Fish and War and Slap Jack and Old Maid.  And we didn’t even need a special deck. We just took all the queens out of the pack except for the Queen of Hearts. Instant Old Maid. And then Rummy and Crazy Eights, graduating to Gin, and Setback, and Hearts. And the favorite of us all: Cribbage. I remember being able to stall on doing my homework by asking my mother if she wouldn’t like to play just one game of Cribbage.

And with at least five versions of Solitaire, for those rare times when no one would play with you, a deck of cards was about the cheapest, most versatile entertainment we had. And you didn’t even need a complete deck – that’s what the jokers were for – substitution.

I’ve long felt that if you can find joy in the simple things, you’ll be joyous a lot more often. Big vacations and special events come along so seldom. You can be happy every day if you focus on everyday things.

Playing cards is one of those things.  One of the ordinary things that immediately comes to mind when I think of being a kid.

No grand occasion or celebration – the best times of my childhood are filled with little happinesses  (mostly free).

– Singing in the car. Forget the radio; we always sang in the car. “Mairzy Doats” and “How Much is That Doggie in the Window” and “Knick Knack Paddy Whack.’  My favorite was “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I loved the “someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah” part, especially because it bore no relation to the rest of the song. It was like a bonus song within the song.

– Walking to the local park to swim in the spring-fed pond. The whole neighborhood would walk together. We’d take a jug of lemonade and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

– In winter, we had our own private sledding hill. We lived across the street from the National Guard armory. The building had a large ramp to the second floor, so jeeps and equipment could be stored. On a snowy day, we would slide down that ramp on a flattened sheet of cardboard.

– My grandmother. She lived upstairs in a small apartment in our three-family house. Every morning she’d come down so my mother could give her an insulin shot. She’d stride into the kitchen as we were having our toast, serenading us with”Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” I thought her voice was the best part of the morning, though I don’t know now whether she could really even carry a tune.

– Waiting for the ice cream truck on a summer evening. All the kids had the same rule – when the streetlights came on, it was time to go home. But sometimes, the grownups would sit together on one porch or another, and talk late into the evening. And curfew was suspended. Playing hide-and-seek in the dark was a wonderfully scary thrill.

– Short cuts. Instead of walking around the corner and down the block to my best friend’s house, I liked to climb on our garbage cans to get over the fence to the next yard, and then climb over their cans to the next yard. I’d cut through all the back yards. It didn’t save time; but it was forbidden, and that was better than saving time.

– Family jokes. I loved the little inside laughs that only we understand. My father wondering if whatever we were missing might be with my mother’s elusive Frank Sinatra record. Whenever anyone was late, we speculated that they were locked in a bathroom.  Using Mel Torme as our standard of disgust. It was like being in my family meant belonging to a very special secret club.

And it still is.

 

climbing

 

 

(Bonus:  One reason why it still is…. )

To me, no one was – or is – as funny as my mother. During our reminiscing this week, she made me laugh harder than I have in months.

We were discussing fashion and makeup – at ninety-one, she still loves these things. And I said that I liked to watch “The Good Wife” to see what Julianna Margulies is wearing.

And Mom said, “Well, I have my fashion icon too. I watch “Hot in Cleveland” to see what Betty White is wearing!”

 

 

 

 

 

47 Comments

  1. My mother was a hoot too. I’ll never be as great as she was but it’s something to shoot for. Betty White is an icon for her age. Gorgeous and her mind words. BTW what I miss most about those “old” days are people sitting on the porch talking. It wasn’t the same porch every day but the same people. They would talk until the mosquitoes made it uncomfortable. Now you don’t see people out at all. Fun post.

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  2. Oh, yours sounds like a wonderful childhood! Mine was filled with the simple things, too, as we had no money to do BIG things. But having a mother to love me made up for all we lacked in material things. I love your bonus and that your mom still makes you laugh. How fortunate you are to still have her.

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    • It was fantastic. Filled with mostly free stuff. Cards, board games, riding bikes.. and my sister just reminded me of HOPSCOTCH!

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  3. A couple of years ago I was watching a period piece on PBS called Larkrise to Candleford. The workers in the field were singing,
    “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy…” Mairzy doats…
    I remember singing along with the bouncing ball at the movies. And everyone joined in.
    Great post!

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  4. Susan

    THANK YOU!!!! Just when I need to remember good, simple times, there you are – hide and seek, red rover, hide from the cars – waiting for the ice cream man, playing until the street lights came on (as long a we were back in our yard by that time, we were safe) and family all around. How our parents put up with all 7 of us in the same house is a lesson in patience itself. I can remember the whole family playing cards at picnics – men at one table, women at another. Add to that having Gramma upstairs – how many times did we run to her when we were in trouble, when we needed comfort, or just when we needed a little bit of “Granmmaing”. How could a childhood get any better. Thank you for helping to bring it back!

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    • I loved having Gramma upstairs. We played cards, baked, and watched “Queen For A Day” (and of course she protected me from getting yelled at….)

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      • Susan

        I loved when she said to Mom “Evelyn, don’t you yell at that child!”

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  5. Loved all of this, especially singing in the car. We liked to sing “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt” and “Luntatina” and “Where have you been Billy Boy, Billy Boy.”

    I miss how my family celebrated a Family birthday — in a big family with 5 kids and most cousins families having 4-5 kids – getting all of those Hooligans together for cake & ice cream, Kick the Can and a weiner roast was such a highlight. Plus – the birthday person always got to pick their cake – I regularly chose Mom’s double layer chocolate cake with Hard Caramel icing (the icing was like fudge) – OMG so good.

    MJ

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    • Lots of kids in my house – 4 in my family, and 3 downstairs at my aunt’s. Then all the other cousins and neighbors. You never had to be alone unless you chose to.

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  6. Christine

    One of the other simple and free things we used to do for hours was play hopscotch on the front sidewalk — we didn’t even need chalk because we drew with coal from the old coal cellar. And don’t forget “I’m a little teapot.”

    Chris

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    • I loved HOPSCOTCH! And digging in the dirt in the backyard. But I can’t now figure out what we liked about “I’m a little teapot!”

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  7. Wonderful post – brought back tons of memories. My favourite summers were the four we spent at a rented cottage on the outskirts of town. We read the same books year after year (old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys adventures, Archie and Peanuts comics), played cards, assembled jigsaw puzzles, challenged one another at various board games, and ‘made believe’ with our dolls in the woods.Those were the best times ever!

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    • I loved Nancy Drew. And jigsaw puzzles. We always had one going when I was a kid… and even as an adult, my parents always had one in process on the dining room table.

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  8. We got delayed at a ferry port and got out the pack of cards. Before we knew it, there were a group of us playing rummy.
    Dad and I always loved to play crib, though it would drive my Mum nuts, specially when she was trying to count her knitting stitches! Oh happy memories of yesteryear.

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    • And I just thought of another fabulous thing about cards…once they got completely worn out – or too many missing – they went in the spokes of our bicycles!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Lovely post. Thanks for that. Card games learned in childhood are like family heirlooms, aren’t they? But much more portable and shared out equally among all the children, forever. My granny was a dab hand at whist, I remember. Is Cribbage easy to play?
    Best wishes
    Elaine

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    • Cribbage is very easy… and has a sweet pegboard to keep score. I don’t think I know of anyone who can play Whist!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I might have seen the pegboards in charity shops here. I looked up ‘cribbage pegboards’ and found a blog called ‘The Art of Manliness’ with a moustachioed man demonstrating how to make one at home http://bit.ly/1CqO39X
        Now I just need to capture my own personal moustachioed man and set him to work. What could I use to tempt him into my house? Gin? A perfectly folded pocket handkerchief?

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  10. Oh what a delightful post. I remember lots of those things — cards especially. Some of the best family time was doing that — we played pinochle and you could discuss problems with Mom and Dad without letting on that it was really a problem. They knew, of course, but it worked really well.

    And nobody takes short cuts any more. Folks are so personal property focused … stupid.

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    • I forgot Pinochle! My little brother could beat me by the time he was six! He had such a knack for that game.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I so love your Mother! I imagine my Mom would have been like that if she had lived. You’ve brought back a flood of wonderful childhood memories. Most, as you say, cost nothing and they were so much fun. These are the moments that bond us, the things we will always hang onto. I can’t imagine years from now some adult saying, “Oh, remember when I got to that certain level on Minecraft? Wasn’t that a lot of fun?”

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    • I fear you are right. I see too many kids who are never told (like we were) – “Go out and play!” – and we did – with no more direction than that!
      And my mother is the smartest person I know – and the love of my life. I am so lucky to have her (and to have inherited at least some of her sense of humor.)

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I had a moment. You took me my way back. I used to love collecting lightening bugs (firefly’s for the youngins) and putting them in a jar. Night time hide-and-seek was the best.

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    • Lightning Bugs! Oh, that takes me back in the best way! And nighttime hide-and-seek – wasn’t it great how much fun it was to be slightly scared hiding in the dark night??

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      • I was only scared when we played with the big kids. They would hide in the trees.

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  13. You’re a chip off the old block. No doubt about it. 🙂
    I watch what Betty White wears as well. She’s in my league, or am I in her league, or… never mind. 😀

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    • My mother is a genius, and funny too! But I’m not quite at the Betty White stage yet!

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      • I agree. You are definitely not at that stage yet. Even I am not but shucks, she’s adorable.

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  14. Oh, I love this post! I simply love all the memories. How fabulous. But, the cards! My mom and dad were (dad still is – at 98) HUGE card players. Mostly pinnocle and cribbage. All nine of my siblings love cards. They grew up playing cards. The family joke is that I am adopted because I am the only one that detests cards. (Maybe because I am the youngest?) While everyone was around our huge table playing cards (that I had been invited to play) I would find a quiet spot and “play” cards with a spare deck. There were four families – the Hearts, the Clubs, the Diamonds, and the Spades. I gave them all names. There were squabbles among the families, deaths, fights among siblings and any other kind of drama I could think up. It was great fun. That is what I think of when I read about cards and it is a cherished memory!

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    • I could understand how you might have felt like the underdog at cards – the littlest one usually loses. But not in our case – my brother was five years younger than me – and had a great ability at cards. When he was seven and I was twelve we were pretty equally matched. After that – I was the underdog. I think my older sisters would say the same. My brother was a great strategist. But what good memories.

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  15. My husband and his family played pinochle all their lives and taught my sons how to play when they were 6. Its a tradition that lives on through today. And laughs? My husband has the greatest laugh, and loves telling family stories. I love your memories..they are alot like mine.

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    • Yes! We have lots of similar family memories – I even have a sister named Claudia!

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  16. thank you so much for sharing this one. I smiled all the way through.

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    • You’re welcome. I’m happy I brought back some nice memories.

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  17. What wonderful memories. You were blessed to have such a great childhood. And your mom is a hoot!

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  18. lifeunderacarolinamoon

    Nice post that brought back my own memories of growing up. Not alot of money to do big things but we’d go for long car rides on Sunday afternoons with stops for watermelon or ice cream. I lived 2 blocks from the ocean so many summer days were spent burning my skin with a full day in the sun. Noxema was the remedy for that. Playtime ended when the street lights came on but I was able to go out in my own backyard with the neighbor kids to catch fireflies. It was glorious!

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    • It seemed to me that a lot of kids couldn’t wait to grow up. I didn’t see the attraction. I loved being a kid!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Sounds like you had a lovely, happy childhood. I was blessed also in that way. Its something we don’t realize till we get older and hear the stories of others. I’ve become so appreciative of my parents.

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    • Yes, I had a completely uneventful and completely wonderful childhood. I’m glad your memories are also good ones. My parents showed us so much love – and showed us the love they had for each other too.

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