Sunday, March 3, 2013

Frugal Fun

Go to enough auctions of people who survived The Depression, World War II, the blows of the 50s, and the one car families of the 60s, and you’ll find  boxes of small square table cloths and probably more than one deck of regular or pinochle playing cards and maybe a box of dominoes. These inexpensive, reusable items were ingredients for Friday and Saturday night good times as well as the center of family gatherings at holidays.

In small towns across Western Kansas, diehards still host Friday night pitch and pinochle parties and break out the cards when family comes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The backbeat to a shuffled deck and sound of dealt aces, spades, clubs, and hearts hitting the table is the murmur of laughter and shared stories. The music of chairs scooching across the floor resounds as folks rise to go to the refreshment table to reload plates with salty pretzels along with homemade sweets and finger foods. Add a perking coffee pot and ice clinking in a tea pitcher, and you have a regular kitchen band accompanying the festivities.

I recently learned to play pitch and discovered what I’ve been missing all the years I haven’t joined in card games. This laughter-filled camaraderie requires concentration on the hand you’re playing, the hand you think your partner will play, and the ones your opponents hold. It’s much more fun than sitting in front of the TV or reading a book.

 Not only are you contemplating what to lay down next, folks of all ages are sharing their stories. This multi–generational interaction is good for the brain and spirit. I wonder if scientists know how much longer regular card players’ minds remain sharp versus electronically entertained brains or how much happier card players are than plug-in fun folks. Though I wouldn’t want to give up reading as a favorite pastime, card playing may cut into some of my page turning.

While we no longer worry about childcare, I can see where pitch or pinochle parties are a great way for young couples to socialize on the cheap. Several families could employ an older brother or sister at bargain rates to play games and entertain little kids while parents enjoy a few hours of grown-up time. This kind of adult/kid play date is win/win for everyone. Kids party with their buddies while mom and dad match wits and visit with friends.

Keeping fun local cuts down on gas expenses and refreshments can be as easy as ice tea and pretzels. A web site devoted to card party snacks encourages keeping food simple. Serving chips and dip or salsas takes up room while eating them increases the risk of marking cards. A community card party I recently attended suggested participants bring finger foods, which added to the fun at the tables. Because everyone brought a dish, no one worked too hard or broke the budget on an evening’s entertainment.

In today’ casual world, people don’t expect tablecloths when they play pitch or pinochle. However, it’s good to tear away from the TV, computer, or electronic games to sit down with friends and family for an old-fashioned good time. You’ll use your noggin, catch up with neighbors and loved ones, and go home glad you joined the fun--guaranteed.

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