I saw the boardgame Stratego at Woolworths the other day and it brought back a few memories. And I do mean few.
I used to love board games. Growing up, I had at least half the length of the shelf that ran the length of my bedroom closest stacked with them. That would have been at least two games wide and several high. But the thing about games is that you need someone with whom to play them. I never had a lot of friends growing up. I had a chemistry set. And the board games.
So I didn’t get to play Stratego very often. As I moved into my teenage years, I had a few friends from church who were older than me, but we never played Stratego. We played guitars. I got pretty good at it and eventually the Stratego game must have been thrown out. (This must have happened after I moved away to college, as I never threw away anything.) It had probably lost pieces appropriated by my little brother for no known reason, but he always seemed to have bits and bobs of my stuff in his room.
If anyone ever played Stratego with me it was probably my cousin Kyle. He was (and still is, by last count) five years older than me. However, most of the time we played Monopoly. Not out of the box, because Kyle designed his own Monopoly boards. My uncle was a building sub-contractor and Kyle had access to big off-cuts of Formica. He would cut these in rectangles of what must have been about 2 feet by 3 feet. The perimeter of the board would be partitioned into the various properties using masking tape. Names would be created for them and deeds created from the names. The prices of the properties reflected the currency being used, which was always the large denomination money from the Game of Life, rather than the lower value Monopoly cash. I ended up with one of Kyle’s boards as a hand-me-down. I had it for ages.
When I got into college, I had the chance to play another one of the games that during my childhood spent most of the time in the top of my closet. During a brief window of time, my housemates and I played Risk. It is probably the greatest of all male bonding games. Often we would play at the home of another man in the church. His son was just a baby – now that son is serving with the Army in Iraq.
I still look back on this time of my life as one of the happiest. These days it is those college friendships that spend too much time on the shelf. I stay in contact with some – one or two occasionally read this blog – others haven’t been dusted off in ages. Some are undoubtedly missing enough pieces that the only thing left is to look at the box.
It’s when I think of college – that emergence into adulthood – that nostalgia hits the hardest. That’s when I have to go look in the mirror at the lines around my eyes and the reflection of the light off the top of my head to remind me that I’m not 20 anymore. I could also look down at my pot belly or look in on the sleeping faces of my own children upstairs – there’s plenty to remind me if I’m not absorbed in my own thoughts.
When I see the kids I teach just about to make that jump to college and university, I feel both jealous and sad. They have the opportunity for so many great times ahead. Most of them may not remember much, because their social life is entirely fuelled by alcohol. Lots of alcohol. They don’t know to be jealous of the values with which I was raised and which were reinforced at my college. I am so glad that I never spent one college night drunk and obnoxious. None of the games we played were drinking games.
My children enjoy playing games. I hope they have more friends to play with than I did early on. I hope my son will find someone with whom to play Stratego, Monopoly, and Risk. I’ll try not to be too jealous.