Rainy Days and Slowing Down
(story by Mir, from Woulda Coulda Shoulda)
Some of my fondest memories from childhood come from the month I spent at camp every summer. Five years in a row, every summer, my parents would load me and an ancient steamer trunk filled with carefully labeled clothing and bedding into the car, and we would drive "out into the wilderness" (it wasn't really all that wild, but a location on a nearby lake) so that I could spend four glorious weeks at camp.
We stayed in cabins, sheets from home thrown haphazardly over lumpy cots, dirty laundry scattered everywhere. As a misfit of a kid with only an older brother and no sisters, four weeks bunking with a group of girls was simultaneously terrifying and amazing. It was a 28-day-long slumber party! We shared clothes and snacks and comic books and secrets. We whispered in the dark and canoed together during the day. It was a wonderful break from "regular" life, as well as from the kids I knew at school. Camp always seemed like a good place to be someone else, if I wanted.
I have a funny feeling that most camps nowadays include laptops and cell phones and televisions, but back then we hustled from Waterfront to Arts & Crafts to Nature Walk or whatever else, each day, and if the weather was nice (which it was, mostly), the only downtime all day was an hour of "rest" during which we typically got into mischief instead of either resting or writing letters to our parents. But when the weather was bad, everything changed.
Thunderstorms meant we were told to stay in our cabins, of course. This became problematic when you had to pee, as the bathrooms were in a separate building. Generally you'd wait as long as possible—maybe the rain would let up!—and eventually you would beg and cajole a friend to run through the pounding rain with you, just so you'd have company. You'd count to three, throw open the door, and burst into the rain, becoming soaked to the skin instantly, whooping and hollering all the way up to the bathroom building. When you returned, the other girls would shriek and throw towels, telling you both not to drip all over the cabin. If there was a girl in the cabin you didn't like, well, you would "accidentally" sit on her bed when you came back.
If it was a gentler rain, free of lightning, the counselors didn't demand campers stay put, and then it wasn't uncommon for us to run outside in bathing suits with our shampoo (Prell, mostly—remember Prell?) and take "rain showers." Rivers of suds would flow past the cabins as we giggled, lathered, threw bubbles at each other. Some of the cabins had covered porches, and that meant you could sit out there and play jacks or Uno or Go Fish and watch the rain.
When regular activities were canceled, we read and chatted, sure. But we also busted out the board games. Uno games became cutthroat Uno tournaments; Sorry became a team sport; and anyone who actually had Monopoly became an instant celebrity. We spent hours entertaining ourselves, inside, without benefit of electronics, email, telephones, or even (in most cases) the radio. We just… played. And talked. And didn't mind.
Lately our family has been feeling… worried. Bogged down in the bad stuff. It's my daughter who asked "Whatever happened to family game night? I miss that." We opened the front closet—the one we never actually use, because we have a coat tree by the door—and started taking down the games on the top shelf. There have been Balderdash tournaments. That's probably my favorite, because my son is thus far incapable of keeping a straight face while his bogus definition is read. (The idea is that you bluff people. But watching a kid be totally amused by his own hilarity is pretty entertaining, too.) Uno remains a favorite, too. My husband is fond of Qwirkle, and my daughter has discovered a love affair with Scattergories. Last weekend my father was visiting, and due to the crazy weather it was warm enough to sit out on the porch and play a game, so we did.
The world slows down while you gather around playing cards and plastic tokens and a game board. It narrows, closes in on the present tense and the people you're with right then. It builds a little cocoon around the moment in a way that email and texting never will. It brings the now, the important parts—the people I love, the blessings we share—into sharp focus. It takes me right back to those lazy, rainy days at camp, even as it amazes me that somehow, in-between the various storms, I became a grownup.
Do you play board games and card games now? Did you as a kid? Do you have any favorites to recommend?
(read more Mir here)