The games we didn’t play at the lake


I saw Joe’s post earlier, and it reminded me of this. I have few regrets, but there is one thing I wish we had done that we didn’t do at the lake, it is this: I wish we had played card games. Maybe it was all of those camp fires, and the s’mores that stood in the way.


Sunset was always late — but for whatever reason, we never did sit around that card table and deal the cards.

This is what my parents did on Friday nights with my Aunts and Uncles. We’d all gather at Grandma’s house, where Hearts, Rummy 500, and sometimes Spoons was a favorite. My relatives were so focused on their hands, shooing us away, so they could study first the cards in their hand, and second, the faces around the table. Sometimes they would have partners. I could tell because I would hear at the end of a hand, things like “If I had known you had that, we could have won that hand.”


If one of us, the kids, hung around the table too long, the aunts would scold us with, “don’t look at my hand,” as if the other relatives had included us in some sort of “card-spy ring.”

The night usually involved Pepsi, popcorn, and other treats, not normally offered so late past our bedtimes. My cousins and I would move outside, with Grandma hollering out the door behind us, “stay away from the road.” We’d catch bugs, play hide and seek, and always say, “as soon as it gets dark, we’ll play ghost in the graveyard.” But we rarely did. We would eventually discover some hidden part in one of the sheds on my Grandma’s farm that we’d never seen before.

Once, I found an old cast iron bed tucked away in the chicken coop. (Several years later, my father pulled it out, and we had it sand blasted, and it became my bed.) I guess we were too quiet, because by the time we’d start lifting bales of hay and moving large pieces of wood to find out what was really underneath, a couple of Aunts and Uncles would be out to search for us and tell us to go back inside. “There’s nails out there,” they’d mumble. Eventually, we’d end up in the living room, creating our own games that usually involved some sort of wrestling, tag or hiding. Sometimes, we’d pull out our own cards and try to play the grown-up games too.


Soon, we would tire ourselves out. The ghost and the graveyard game lost its appeal, as the sofas, rockers and Grandma’s Afghans become our playthings. We’d had enough of each other. Content, now to settle down, by ourselves, and remember the day and let our imaginations create dreams. I could see the light from the kitchen table – the round copper light fixture that hangs centered, right above the table, and beams down on the game. This table looks as though it has always and only has been used for card playing. It’s hard for me to picture the bowl of Kellogg’s corn flakes and the red grapefruit I have eaten at this round, gray Formica table on so many mornings.

These are my last thoughts. I am being carried to the car, and I wake up just as we pass underneath the pole light, to see bugs with long tails and wings buzzing under the lights. I hear Grandma say, “be careful with her.” My father, the one with the blue eyes, tucks me into the car; my brother comes next, and our feet bump against each other as we curl up in the back seat, and drive off for home.

Yes,I regret that we didn’t play cards this summer at the lake.

Maybe this fall ….



More lake house posts, here.

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12 comments on “The games we didn’t play at the lake
  1. What a beautiful post. I too remember card games played at the table though my memories are not really happy ones…but I do remember ghost in the graveyard. It was one of my favorite games to play.

  2. BTW, those old picture are great. I have a box of old pictures my dad gave me. they used to be my grandmothers. I have no idea who a lot of the pictures are of but I love those old pictures dearly.

  3. Zephra, I was able to scan the pictures into my printer, and loaded them into PhotoShop. The quality was much better than I expected. I tweaked them a bit with the editing software, but not much.

    In these pictures, the children are actually my Aunts and Uncles who are playing the games — not me or my cousins. I thought it was fitting to show them as children playing, while the adults were busy doing something else.

  4. My kids and their cousins play cards at the lake — particularly UNO — but we didn’t as kids. Neither did the adults. I do remember us 8, 9, 10 year old kids playing long games of Monopoly with our young adult neighbors until my brother inevitably got out of hand and toppled the game board. Don’t think he’ll ever live that down, lol.

  5. Cards and games were part of our childhood, too. We didn’t allow tv at our country weekend home in Texas and my children enjoyed them.

    Part of my childhood was watching adults play cards, too. Very few of my friends play cards and it has been 20 years since another couple played cards in the evening with us. Spades or hearts. Don’t remember.

  6. What a beautiful post! My family was filled with card players, and it is amazing the memories this digs up for me. Wonderfully written and glorious photos!

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