My husband, Andre, and I visit my mom for her ninetieth birthday. She makes a point of saying she isn’t ninety yet because we’re ahead of her special day by about two weeks. We duly make …
My husband, Andre, and I visit my mom for her ninetieth birthday. She makes a point of saying she isn’t ninety yet because we’re ahead of her special day by about two weeks. We duly make note.
Mom loves to play cards. Her favorite is Pinochle, a game Andre and I know nothing about. My glum face prompts her to ask, “Is it too boring for you?”
“No,” I say, “I’m just not a very good card player because I can never remember all the rules and regulations.” Aside from remembering every bit about Pinochle, mom also keeps score without pen or paper. This means adding up the points for each player in her head, pretty impressive at any age.
To teach us numbskulls Pinochle, mom suggests we expose our cards for the first hand. Once dealt, mom can’t get over her hand. She goes on and on about how great it is with its many Aces and something called a Trump-Run.
“The Trump-Run,” she explains, “Determines the suit that would act like…” Before she can finish, Andre jumps in, “A wild card?”
“Well, sort of,” she replies with a roll of the eyes that reveals just how much she has to tolerate us blockheads. Already, we’re having trouble with what might be the simplest part of the game. Mathematics, strategies, rules and regulations, which I won’t get into here, are yet to come.
Mom continues to gush over her hand to the point where I suggest she hurry, take a photo of it, and post it on social media, but she has no time for that foolishness. She’s going to “crush” us or is the word she uses “kill”? Yes, it’s kill.
During the first hand, when I don’t learn much, mom suggests we play another open hand. But as soon as Andre lifts his cards to his face, he says, “No. Let’s play this hand for real.” Andre’s no longer part of the dummy club and mom is excited. I, on the other hand, feel I’ve already lost.
I have no idea how to evaluate my second hand, but no matter. Andre has something called “Pinochle” (the Queen of spades and the Jack of diamonds) and when we meld (lay our first point-combos down), he announces that he’s won the game!
“No,” explains mom. “You didn’t win the game. You just earned some points.”
“Then why even call the game Pinochle?” he asks and mom just laughs so hard, she can’t speak anymore. The game ensues. Every time I lay a card down I ask, “Do I take this trick?” A trick is a 3-card pile awarded when you actually know how to play the game. You need a high card to get the trick. I’m on fire as I lay a King on top of Andre’s Jack and mom’s Ten, but before I can grab the trick, mom swipes it.
“Wait a minute,” I say, “I had the King.”
“Ten is higher than a King!” she declares.
“In what world of cards is a Ten ever higher than a King?” I grouse.
“In Pinochle,” she says and then adds. “The Run goes Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack.” Is mom a card shark?
During the third hand, things really get out of hand. Mom plants a Jack, Andre a Nine (which is so distained in Pinochle, I don’t even know why they bother to include it) and I, a Jack, which I believe, Jack on Jack, entitles me to the trick. However, as I reach my hand across the table, trickster mom scoops up the trick.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“My Jack is “trans” and therefore a “Queen,” she says matter-of-factly. Andre and I just stare at each other in disbelief and then seconds later we all burst into a belly laugh. What more could this “almost” ninety year-old have up her sleeve?
RAMONA JAN is the Founder and Director of Yarnslingers, a storytelling group that tells tales both fantastic and true. She is also the roving historian for Callicoon, NY and is often seen giving tours around town. You can email her at email@example.com.
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