when life was easy
Tera was cleaning her room not long ago and came downstairs with a bag full of recycling stuff. I almost had her take the bag out and distribute it herself, but at the last minute, I took a peek. And there, tucked behind an empty juice can and a rumpled piece of cardboard, I found my treasures: 21 Kismet score sheets.
Kismet is a step up from Yahtzee, in case you don't know. The dice in Kismet are colored, which adds a whole other dimension to the game. And these 21 score sheets represent an untallied, but high number of hours of my childhood spent trying to out-throw my grandmother, and others.
Tera didn't know. To her, it was just a pile of paper that needed to go. But to me, it was a link to an easier time.
I carried them to the couch much the way you would carry a Faberge egg, or a tripped grenade, or anything else you didn't much care to drop. With the pile and my tea, I set to remembering.
The first name I saw, written on the top right side of the first sheet, was Mickey. And there she was again, sitting at her kitchen table rolling the dice, and giggling with ungrandmotherly delight at all the sixes that have settled between us.
"Another Kismet, Grandma?" I imagine myself saying. "How many do you need?"
The brought-to-life woman gives me a steady look. "I believe I have two more in me."
I scoff and she laughs again.
Looking down at the sheet in my hands, I see her beautiful 2s, with the curl at the top of each, and her precise 7s--the slant of which I could never get right, despite all my practice. I remember days when "Old Arthur," as she called her rheumatoid arthritis, got the better of her hands, and she'd have to grip the pen between tight, grimaced fingers. Even then, her numbers looked elegant and queenly.
Her name is on the top right of several sheets--Max on a day she felt feisty, Maxine H. on another more formal afternoon. Interspersed are other names I haven't seen in awhile--Rose, my grandmother's sister--and the Great Aunt I remember visiting in her house with the tilted floor and few groceries. Grandma and I would bring in bags of food--always with extra, nonessential delights for Aunt Rose's three boys--and after a good, long visit, Grandma would kiss her sister and slip her a $20 bill. Aunt Rose has been gone a long time now, but her name lingers on one Kismet sheet.
My cousins are there--Lisa and Robin, and my sisters--Megan, Tarri and Nancy. No doubt, some of those names hit their sheets as we crammed together on a balmy summer evening in the travel trailer we liked to pretend was our home. We'd bring chips and onion dip out with us, and grease up the dice.
Our husbands are there--but clearly before they were our husbands. Dave W. reads one, back when the W belonged to him alone, and not to us. Dave R. reads another, when he was just my sister's boyfriend.
And then there are the silly names--the ones which freeze our then-moods for all time. Sassy I see, in my own handwriting--and Lulu, Wildflower, Animal, and Stud Muffin in others. If I'm not mistaken, Animal was Grandpa. Should have been, anyway. He got such a kick out of beating us, he once sat me purposefully in front of the sliding glass door while we played Old Maid, just so he could see my cards in the reflection in the window and not grab the spinster out of my hand. I can still hear his laughter when finally, after exaggerating his peeks for my benefit, I turned and figured out his strategy.
I love all the names, all the people, represented on those thin, 4 by 6 sheets of paper. I skim them once again, remembering faces, and comments, and the sounds of laughter ... and a time when life was much, much simpler than it is now.
But then I go back to Mickey, and sit awhile with my friend ... and the person I'm most missing today.