Christmas cardsby Terry McLaughlin
Whenever I hear the words "Christmas cards," two things come to mind. The first is the beautiful written greetings friends and family mail to each other at this time of year. The second involves memories of my family's favorite activity during the school holidays.
The game of Hearts was serious, cutthroat business. We rarely played it on weekends; we reserved it for summer and Christmas vacations, for long stretches of lazy days when rivalries could simmer and conspiracies could ferment. Two decks of cards made the play twice as complicated and doubled the fun. Another source of entertainment was my parents. They'd played highly competitive card games throughout their courtship; now they skipped proper parental examples and got down to our level.
Cheating was difficult but not impossible. I still remember the afternoon my sister and I stacked those two decks so that every seventh card would be dealt to one particular brother in a combination that would tempt him to shoot the moon but end in inevitable, crushing disaster. And there was always the agony of the dealer's choice of passing combinations before the beginning of play. Two to the right, twice. Or one to the left, followed by three to the right. Or the deadliest decree of all: play the cards you're dealt.
I developed an early and serious love–hate relationship with the Queen of Spades.
Another Christmas memory I treasure is a weekend-long Hearts tournament with some high school friends at a family ski cabin. One chaperone refused to play, at first, and his son told us to quit inviting him. Finally we convinced him to join our game...and then our friend's father proceeded to shoot the moon with every hand, just as his son had warned us he'd do. I still wonder how he managed that trick.
Does your family enjoy games of Christmas cards? What are your favorites?
Terry McLaughlin is celebrating her first Christmas-time release: A Small-Town Reunion. She's still bemused–and amused–by the Christmas décor on the cover of a story set in July.