Up and Down the River, Crazy Eights, Hearts, War, Old Maid, Go Fish, Euchre, Uno, and Rook were all great card games which I learned from my siblings and parents while growing up. At the time it just seemed natural when we gathered in twos or more to take on one another in a spirited card game! Playing cards was part of our family culture.
While a few members of my family coveted hanging the final score on the refrigerator with the “Big Winner” written by their name, most of us just enjoyed the time we spent together. Playing cards together as a family provided a relaxed time to step back from life, reflect, laugh and enjoy one another. Side bar conversations often took place which provided opportunity for casual discussion to catch up and share with one another.
Often the habitual conversationalists would become so engaged in dialogue the card game would come to a grinding halt with one of them asking “Is it my turn?” While everyone around the table would respond obligingly and the pace would pick back up, we subconsciously knew the importance of those personal conversations.
No matter where we were, or how many gathered, card games were an intertwined part of our life. I didn’t play solitaire much as a child because I was conditioned to find a family member to play two handed Euchre or War. Even when my family went camping we were gathered around the picnic table late at night playing Up and Down the River from the light of a lantern hanging from a tree limb overhead. Yes, I have many fond memories of playing cards with my family!
Although my siblings and I all have our own families now, some with grandchildren, to this day when we gather in mass you will find us gathered around several tables participating in card games, talking, catching up with one another’s lives, and laughing over memories from the years. Leading the generations at eighty-eight years of age the matriarch, our mom, continues to join in a good game of Sequence!
Because of this family bonding foundation of card playing I find myself trying to promote these same experiences for my own children. Reinforcing math skills through playing Uno, communicating boldly by playing Pit, and sharing the family tradition of Up and Down the River all are a part of how my wife and I engage together with our children. These cherished set-aside experiences, removed from today’s busy world, have become valued family bonding times for my family!
Just today my daughter was persistent in teaching us a new card game she had learned at camp. While sitting around the table she shuffled the deck and began to explain the rules for playing Kemps. Her brother joined in several times to clarify details because he had learned the game several years ago at a different camp. They quickly discovered while the name was the same they had learned different versions of the game. This became a wonderful opportunity for sibling dialogue! Once the rules interpretation ended and a compromise had been struck we began to play.
Kemps was a new game for me and my wife. Interestingly we found ourselves as inexperienced players of the game paired together against our experienced children who fashioned the rules! Our children were depending on the truth in the expression “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick!”
Once into the game we discovered an important part of Kemps included team communication. We needed to signal to each other, without our children’s knowledge, once we achieved the task of collecting four of a kind. Our paired children were tasked at doing the same. Trying to communicate via signals in a subtle manner and also trying to pickup on the signaling of the opposing team provided humor for all of us!
After many hands of Kemps we yielded to the lateness of the night with the awareness that we had added a new member to our array of card games. As we broke off our daughter informed us she had another new game from camp ready to share for our next gathering. This revelation placed a warm and satisfying smile on my face which made it easy to turn in for the night! Although seemingly a simple concept in today’s complex world, there is something to be said for the family togetherness that occurs when playing cards. We all need to remember the importance of playing Kemps!
Rick Hanes is the superintendent of the Piqua City School District. Rick continues to ensure that the Piqua City Schools show residents the “Good Schools, Good Value” that they are each day. You can follow him directly on Twitter @raheducator.