“Is P-H-I-J-O-R-N a word?” my son asks.
“Yes,” I tell him. “P-H-I-J-O-R-N is definitely a word. It means ‘to attempt to cheat at Scrabble'”.
It is the Christmas holidays and there is a faint hint of desperation in the air. How to fill the long, empty days in the holiday house with my parents, particularly when most of the days have been raining, and the house – gasp – has no cable TV. We have resorted to the most basic of activities: Scrabble, cards, arts and crafts, and the most recent addition – the progressive story.
“I’ll begin,” says my daughter. “Once upon a time there was a girl who lived in a cottage far, far away….”
“Your turn,” I say to my son.
“One day in her cottage she found a big, purple acorn…”
“The acorn swallowed her up,” says my husband, “as he was a violent, treacherous acorn.”
I roll my eyes and shoot him a warning look. There is a four year old in the room!
My turn. “But then he burped her up again!” I say brightly. “And she was completely unharmed!” We turn to look at little Boo.
“And she gets ice cream!” Boo says gleefully. “Because I love ice cream!”
“Of course she does, darling,” I tell her. “Papa?”
My father clears his throat. “But inside the ice cream she sees a sight too horrible to articulate…..”
What is it with the men in this family?
And so it goes on.
Still, our progressive stories are not nearly as dramatic as the family games of Scrabble.
Generally the games are played between my mother, my twelve year old son, and me, with occasional appearances by my ten year old daughter. My son, despite his cheeky attempts to create words where there are none, is actually fiendishly good at Scrabble. My mother, who is a lifelong player of word games, is even better. However, it is I, the writer of the family, who is the true expert. Except that I’m not, at all. For some utterly unfathomable reason, I am absolutely useless at Scrabble, and have never won a game in my life. Not even at Junior Scrabble, where all you have to do is place tiles on the words already formed on the board. It’s very humiliating.
I look in despair at my letters.
Hopeless. What the hell can I do with them????
Meanwhile, my son is thrashing me, and my mother is not far behind.
“So is R-E-W-N-N-I a word?” my son asks.
“Yes,” I tell him. “It means ‘desperately trying to create words out of nothing.'”
“No!” he says triumphantly. “It means W-I-N-N-E-R.”
“I like ice cream!” shouts Boo.
And another day goes by.
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