This post written for The Red Dress Club's memoir meme.
(My first ever... deep breath)
My parents got divorced when I was pretty young, 3rd or 4th grade. For the first few years after the divorce, my younger brother and sister and I would spend weekends with my dad at his apartment. There weren't any other kids around, so we pretty much had to play with each other. We'd watch movies on my dad's VCR, wander through the small patch of trees behind his apartment that, to us kids, seemed like an entire forest. Or we would stay inside and play board games. One of our favorites was Clue.
My sister and I always fought over who got to be Miss Scarlet. (Look at that box. Is there any other character a little girl would want to be?) The game board had pictures in each room of the flooring or other textures that would appear in the room, like a book cover for the library, or green felt in the billiard room.
As kids, there wasn't much strategy in our method of play. We chose which room to go to next because we liked the picture, such as the cool flooring in the ball room, or the hall rug. Once we discovered that a billiard room had pool tables, we liked that room a lot, too. Nobody liked the ugly kitchen, except that it had one of the four secret passages, which seemed about like the coolest thing in the world. Our weapon choices were also based on which were the most fun. Candlestick and revolver were big hits; lead pipe and a little plastic rope, not so much.
Sometimes we would get my dad to play with us. These games were always significantly shorter than the kid-only versions. We were always amazed at how quickly he could figure out who did it! You see, my dad never let us win. Never. He didn't even go easy on us. He just played the game, and even though we were three kids under ten, he played just the same. And he always won.
Until one day... he didn't. Over time, I had figured out how to play. I figured out to go to the rooms I needed to go to. I figured out it was better to be Mrs. Peacock than Miss Scarlet, because hers was the only piece that could get into a room on the first turn. I figured out how to ask for two items I already had so I could learn something out the third. I figured out how to mark my little answer sheet so that I knew what was going on when other people passed cards back and forth, even if I didn't see the card. I had learned how to play. And I beat him.
I cannot remember anything about that game. I don't know who did it, with what, or in what room. I don't remember if my brother or sister were playing with us. But I remember the feeling. I remember feeling so proud of myself, of what I had accomplished. Up until that moment, it seemed impossible for me to ever beat him. And then it suddenly became possible. I had done it.
These days, I never let my four year old win the games we play. Sometimes he gets frustrated and tries to instruct me where to put my X in tic-tac-toe, realizing that he's about to lose. But he has already beaten me at Memory, and I hope that I am building in him the same sense that he can fail over and over again, but if he keeps at it, he will eventually prevail.