“Life is not a amount of captivation acceptable cards, but arena a poor duke well.”
— Jack London
I ample out my New Year’s resolution: I’m activity to advise the boys to comedy cribbage.
My parents, Hap and Nurse Vivian, both grew up in card-playing families. Pennsylvania pinochle rules alter aloof a little bit from Brooklyn, but there was abundant in accepted for them to accomplish a blessed marriage. And afresh a family.
There’s no “Parenting According to Hoyle,” but there are a few tricks you can play.
Nurse Vivian and Hap were both creative. He sewed, she cooked, and he was the artist laureate of Patton’s 3rd Armored Division.
When Hap anticipation any of us boys were accessible for math, he got out a accouter of cards, and over a bold of war or old maid, he bluffed us into acquirements our numbers. Saturday nights in Ozone Park, we played penny poker with the Widow Sally Cadden and the Widower Joe McCormick. And not aloof the adults. We abstruse all the variations: Hold’em and Rangdoodle and one-eyed jacks wild. I was 7 years old aback I abstruse that aces and eights were a asleep man’s hand, and by 8 I could drag a accouter on my own (although whenever I did, Hap formed his eyes and said, “Hurry up and deal. You’re abrading the tits off the queen.”)
But arch was aloof for adults. Nurse Viv and Hap acclimated arch as a allegory for their own marriage. They developed their own signals. They played pinochle with the bachelors, but arch with affiliated couples: Aunt Mildred and Uncle Eddie were the regulars. Aback Oscar and Doris Danielson divorced, Nurse Vivian moaned, “But they bid so able-bodied together! Remember that four no-trump?”
So it was accustomed that as the Paulson boys grew up, they got indoctrinated. But Brother Dos Equis and his wife afar agilely aback he abstruse that she could not calculation cards. Brother X and his X afar audibly afterwards she reneged in a four-spade hand.
Nurse Vivian was never agog about what she alleged my lifestyle. I didn’t date abounding men afore Brian, but none of them got arrive over for so abundant as a pot roast. But Brian, he was a keeper. We knew we had fabricated it as a brace aback Nurse Vivian said, “Come on over, and I’ll accomplish sauerbraten. Afterwards that, we’ll advise you bridge.”
Brian? He was “all in.” He’d developed up in Maine on cribbage, so aural an hour he had finessed not alone a baby slam, but Nurse Vivian’s affection as well.
By the time my parents retired to St. Petersburg, Fla., they had accomplished some akin of admirable adept in the clubs. This was not after controversy.
At one tournament, aback Nurse Vivian had absolute a baby slam, Hap said, “Does anyone in this allowance appetite my wife for a partner?” The woman sitting abutting to her said, “Dear, if I were you, I’d anticipate about a nice annulment with a acceptable alimony.” Nurse Vivian demurred, “We’re Catholic. Divorce, never! Murder…?”
Having lived in the best burghal in the apple for about three decades, there’s not abundant that I absence about the East Coast, except that bodies played cards on a Saturday night. And in the cyberbanking age, it’s a lot easier to argument addition than canyon them a jack.
We’ve alone begin one added arch brace here, aback in the ’90s. He was my bang-up at a startup software firm, and he was dating the man who would eventually become Uncle Jon. The night that Brian played a bristles no-trump, I got accursed — but we got Jon in the divorce.
You’d anticipate that in the clamor dejected bungalow in the outer, outer, outer, alien Excelsior, we would accept accomplished our boys how to shuffle. We did alpha them out with Uno, and they got appealing acceptable — there was the time we approved to advise the boys poker, but we alone had a tarot accouter (I got dealt a three of a affectionate but the dog died) — but Zane larboard and aloof aloof got back, and are we still addition out how to be a ancestors again.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, I’m account at Book Passage in Corte Madera. But afore that, we’re spending the weekend with the Sasbs (Stephanie and family) in the snow. It’s time for hearts or canasta. Maybe we’ll all apprentice Pedreaux.
We’re starting out with a brace of queens, and a brace of knaves. From actuality on up, the sky’s the limit.
Kevin Fisher-Paulson’s cavalcade appears Wednesdays in Datebook. Email: [email protected]
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