Spite and Malice or Cat and Mouse – a Legacy
Some of my children were home this past week to celebrate Thanksgiving. We had a lovely dinner and walk and enjoyed some very good conversation.
My girls all like to play games and I like the conversations that emerge while playing; the quips and laughter that follow. I asked that we honor my Mother’s would be 97th birthday by playing a full round of SPITE and MALICE.
Each in their turn, my Mother faithfully taught my daughters to play this favorite card game. I liked it because it kept numbers happening before their eyes. While playing, my Mother shared her wisdom and did lots of problem-solving. I think she also liked collecting the stories about when I was messing up as a parent, or when I was handling something in an innovative way, and she also reassured them that maybe I had good and loving intentions behind my actions.
Each in their turn, they went to my Mother’s home and cleaned on Saturdays. Then they helped her make a family dinner, set the table, and shuffle the decks of cards for our game after dinner when dishes were put away. In trade, they each got a hundred dollars a month while in college as her thanks for their care of her.
SPITE and MALICE taught us how to make the luck of the draw work for us, how to subtly block another player, and how to finesse a loss. There was lots of time for the conversation to flow.
One deck more than the number of players, draw to start your turn, keep your mind tuned into what the other players are laying down, and Kings are wild.
After my Mother turned 90 and just before she turned 91, she fell bending over to the refrigerator and fractured her back. Every joint in her body was bone on bone. It took a number of weeks to get her into the hospital for pain relieving surgery and then the Doctors put her on lots of medications which slowed her down, made her sleepy, and I am sure shortened her life (Her own mother lived to 96 and her grandmother 106). She could no longer read, but could listen to a story being read aloud. She loved watching Congress in action on television, and she so enjoyed her many guests.
Her greatest loss was that she could not keep track of the cards well enough to play SPITE and MALICE.
Without any maternal prompting, one by one my children sat down beside her when the family began to play. The last year of her life, with a granddaughter on either side of her, she won the last 9 games of SPITE and MALICE that she would ever play. I am quite sure that she was unaware of all the assistance her sidekicks were promoting for this fierce competitor to achieve such gain.
Love in Action.
SPITE AND MALICE (Wikipedia) is a card game which is similar to a group game of solitaire. It is a very old game and one my Mother’s family played in England. We have discovered some other names for it over the years, including one of my children called it SPIKE and ALICE! We tried various times to write down the rules of the game and type them up to my Mum’s satisfaction, and now we just say, “trust us this works.”
Do you have a family game or tradition that starts storytelling and conversation in your family? Do you have favorite memories of inter-generational memories? I also like to think that my ancestors played this game, do you find connections to older history of your family? Please share your stories and add to this post some more of that lovin’ feeling.