“Those who don’t finish their meals,” Grandma continued taking Megan’s plate from her and lifting her down from the bar stool, “don’t get dessert. That’s my rule and there’ll be no exceptions.”
I heard the clicking of bare feet against the rod iron spiral staircase. Michael who was about six years old, but twice the size of most boys his age, had conveniently disappeared during cleanup, but returned to the kitchen carrying a box-set of cards.
“Can we play cards tonight Grandma?” he asked climbing up onto the dining room table bench.
The table reminded me of a picnic table you’d find in a park, only it was a lot sturdier with a high-gloss finish. The texture of the old wood showed signs of aging and the long benches were so heavy they required us kids to lift one side, and then the other, in order to pull them out completely.
The wall on the side of the room housed an antique hutch of the same beautiful dark wood, and on the very top shelf, far out of reach from the children, was a tall glass apothecary jar, the contents of which we each coveted.
During her once-a-month trip to the grocery store - which was about an hour away -Grandma would stock up on goodies for the jar: Swedish Fish, sugar-covered “orange slices” and the occasional chocolate bar. If left to the control of the grandchildren, these highly sought-after treats would have been gobbled within minutes. Instead, Grandma guarded them viciously, divvying out the rations each night after dinner to those who had followed their mother’s dietary rules.
“Sure we can play cards,” Grandma said sweetly as she returned the candy jar to its home high atop the hutch. She prepared a bowl of freshly picked blueberries in the kitchen and placed them on the table then sat down next to Michael on the bench. She opened up the card box, pulling out two decks of cards, as her three granddaughters gathered around her.
“So what game are we going to play?” Michael asked excitedly pushing himself up onto his knees to get a better view of the table.
“Go fish,” Megan said. She too was practically standing on the bench in order to reach the table.
“We played that last night,” Michael said, frustrated with the possibility that the youngest may get her way, yet again.
“Old Maid,” Megan returned quickly.
“Megan, Old Maid isn’t played with these kinds of cards,” I tried to explain.
“I want to play a new game,” Michael insisted. “No more boring baby stuff.”
The wheels were turning in Grandma’s head while she shuffled the cards quickly between her hands, her fingers moving rapidly as she stacked the cards, and then reshuffled.
“Hey Michael,” she inquired slowly, looking first at Heather, and then at me. “Have you ever played 52 Pickup?”