Monday, May 6, 2013
Games for Adults and Children
Leda, brilliant granddaughter, knows many things but thus far in her six+ years on earth she has learned nothing about horse racing. Given that she didn’t spawn from racing families, that she doesn’t live in Kentucky, and that she not (yet) developed a taste for bourbon, this is not surprising. But CSB, who likewise does not live in Kentucky, has always loved watching the Kentucky Derby, because his father did, and that is enough to constitute a tradition. And now with Leda inquiring assiduously into the silken attire of the jockeys, and the role of a muddy racetrack, and the amount of money involved, that tradition is launched for another generation. I had threatened CSB that Leda and I would gather round the TV screen wearing large floppy hats adorned with wildflowers. But we failed in that key element of the tradition, due to barely turning on the television by post time. (6:30 is early to be coming inside to watch TV, when it is still light outside and there are still seeds to be sown and weeds to be pulled and chickens to be fed.) But we did manage to gather. The horses paraded with their jockeys. Or the jockeys paraded with their horses. There was exactly one female jockey and exactly one African-American jockey. The gun went off. The horses shot out of the gate and stuck together, all except for Orb, in 16th place. We anticipated Normandy Invasion (why not Fallujah Offensive?) would win the war. Then Orb leapt ahead, and in 2:02.89 minutes, the race was over. Leda wanted to know what a horse would do with $2 million.
I know that Angry Birds is entertaining and satisfying in certain atavistic ways, but still, there is nothing like Hangman for enlarging one’s vocabulary while getting re-acquainted with the alphabet. So, as Leda and I took Metro-North into Grand Central yesterday – where we would rendezvous with her Dad for the handover – I taught her to play Hangman. She was a natural. For her first turn as the Hanged, she guessed letters in alphabetical order, which is not a good idea.(And it would never happen again.) She would have lost but we negotiated several extra body parts & accessories for the hanging body: barrettes, striped socks, ears, knee caps. She took a turn and stumped me with POOP. I should have guessed – known, remembered - where a six-year-old’s mind would turn, but I regret to say I was genuinely stumped. I too would have lost the game & given up the ghost, had she not given my hanging body a crown, and then a sword, and then a handbag. Then she insisted that since I very nearly lost, she would take a second turn making up the word. Nearly losing would trump taking alternate turns, she explained. I methodically guessed the vowels first. By U I was already mostly dead. Then I guessed consonants while wracking my mind for words I knew she could spell. That was foolish. Because she can spell more words than I can name, and because once again I failed at the obvious. The word was BUTT. By then we were pulling into the station, which was a good thing.
Later that day, the downstairs bathtub was returned to us, to the human bathers of the house. Because yes, CSB finished constructing their outdoor home: a separate fenced-in play area and a large wooden box that looks unnervingly like a cheap coffin. We carried them outside one by one, their wings a-flutter, their hearts a-beating. This morning they are still out there, in a scrum at the open door of their casket, deciding whether to make the giant leap onto grass.