Card Sharks and Apple Pie

As long as I can remember my family has done the same thing every year for Thanksgiving. We all gather at my parents house. We drink the same brand of sparkling cider, take

Family Game Night

our annual family picture and eat till we can’t move.

And every year we have the big family fight, um, I mean… argument. Maybe I should call it a spirited debate. It’s always over something stupid, never about politics or religion, or anything that gets most people heated. One year it was about my uncle’s decision to date women who were closer to my age than his own.(Yikes and eww!) Another year it was about modern music versus oldies.(They don’t call them classics for a nothing.) Last year we had a big discussion about my brother’s unfortunate fashion choices. (Tiny tee-shirt to show off his bulging muscles and low riding pants… to show off his underwear?)

But most arguments on Thanksgiving day stem from one thing: Games. My mother’s side of the family are notorious cheaters. My grandfather, wily old man may he rest in peace was, their leader. At a certain point during childhood in my family, one realizes that Poppy is a big fat stinky cheater, and if you are going to play with him you have to expect that if you get up to go to the bathroom he will steal your cards, or stack the deck or make up the rules to the game as he goes.

There are some children who accept the challenge and begin the process of learning how to out cheat the cheater. There are others like my middle brother, who watch in honorable horror. My father, who grew up in an honest, well-behaved family, refuses to play with us unless we promise to play fair. (Poor sap.)

Card games are ridiculous, from Gold Fish to Rummy 500 I don’t think a fair game has ever been played in our household. When we play Spades rules don’t apply at all, cards are freely traded and adding ten to fifteen extra points to your score is permissible.

Trival Pursuit became a family favorite after smart phones came out. More than a test of knowledge it became a test of who could google the fastest.

Scattegories … ah. The game we wait for every year and the cause of our loudest family arguments. For those of you who don’t know Scattegories, the objective of the 2-to-6-player game is to score points by uniquely naming objects within a set of categories, given an initial letter, within a time limit. For example… A college major that begins with the letter W.

My mother said Witch Craft. My uncle hotly refused to let her have the point. But when it came around to his wife’s turn and she said Weeding,my uncle being a good husband defended his wife’s answer, stating that Horticulture was indeed a college major and that she should not only be given the point, but an extra for being so clever. (Gag and what a big flipping cheater!) And that started the fight-argument-spirited debate of that year.

 Then after every blow out we have apple pie and ice cream and go on like nothing ever happened.Our guests always gaze at us in amazement and wonder how so many crazy people got put in one family but they always leave with smiles on their faces.


The truth is Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a little cheating, a little screaming and my father shaking his head, wondering why the hell he married into this family.

Sidenote:It’s an unspoken code that we keep all cheating confined to our house only. Because honestly, nobody likes a cheater.

Another sidenote: Since we spent our childhoods trying to out smart my grandfather we know the rules like the back of our hands, and we’re all SUPER competitive. Oh and we’re gloaters. (Bad sportsmanship 😦 I know. ) Don’t invite us for game night unless you’re prepared to go down.

Your turn. Is your family as nuts as mine? Do you have a weird family tradition? Any tradition? No tradition? Like games? Wanna play me in SPIT? Any and all comments are welcome.



19 thoughts on “Card Sharks and Apple Pie”

  1. OMGoodness does that bring back memories. Well not the cheating–we were always dragging out the rules to validate our moves. We played cards board games and dice games too. Our craziness was that we hung signs all over the house proclaiming how great we were in our games. And then we would graffiti each others proclamations. Our decorations were strange indeed.
    Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  2. So funny Jamie! We used to play board games all the time. I can remember vicious Trivial Pursuit battles where my mother would sit, think, and after a minute pull up the most obscure facts! I swear there is a computer in there somewhere. My mom is soooo competitive that for a while none of us would play Parcheesi with her. But we always have tons of fun together (my Friday post will share one of our more unusual Thanksgiving outings). My family’s favorite games now is Apples to Apples. We play it at almost every gathering at my friend’s house. It’s our new tradition!

  3. Hilarious, Jamie! My grandpa taught me to cheat at cards too! Although my grown-up moral compass will not allow for this kind of behavior anymore. It must have been something about that generation. Cheating at cards was probably a viable way of earning an income in those days.

    I’ll play spit with you anytime…but if your wearing glasses, I can’t guarantee I won’t cheat:-)

  4. Jamie, you are a nut! Crazy family traditions, huh? I guess it’d be the carriage ride with half drunk Santa pulled by horses or a donkey…whatever they’ve got….through my Dad’s tiny town in Maiden, NC on Thanksgiving night.

  5. Haha! I would love to come to your Thanksgiving celebration, Jamie, if I didn’t have my own family expecting me. We are changing things up a bit as far as menu this year (come back for my post on Thursday for details and a no-longer-secret family recipe), but one thing that never changes is the holiday Pitch game after dinner. (In New England I believe this game is called Setback; it’s a slightly different animal up toward the Canadian border) And yes, we play for money. A nickel a point, double in spades. Somebody always goes home with a pocket bulging with change. I usually lose so I just dump whatever pathetic remants are left of my pile back into Mom’s jar of change, which is where I probably took my startup money from anyway.

  6. We play setback at most family gatherings…but another Thanksgiving tradition is for my mother to announce (as hostess) that her food is cold and she doesn’t like it much. It’s just not Thanksgiving without that.

      1. Actually, it sounds like it would be right up your family’s alley, Jamie. The basic idea is that one person bids, and everyone else in the game works together (you might say “gangs up”) to prevent the bidder from winning his/her bid. It’s not easy for the bidder to cheat, but it would be super easy for the rest of the players to cheat (by showing each other cards). Not that I’ve ever done such a heinous thing, of course.

  7. Wow Jamie, Sounds like you have a real fun time at Thanksgiving. All families have quirks. We really don’t have set traditions for Thanksgiving. In my family, the traditions are more Christmas. We do have ongoing cribbage games. I specifically recall a neighbor who was a terrible cheat and it was always fun to catch him (God rest his soul). It’s nice to recall those fond memories. Thanks for the post.

  8. It’s funny, but I never knew I was cheating at games until I married my husband and we started playing certain games at his house. The looks of horror on his family member’s faces was what told me I was a big fat cheater. All I could say was, “What? Isn’t that how everyone plays?” But I’ll be honest, I teach my kids MY rules. 😉

  9. Thanksgiving used to be at my Nana’s. No questions asked. However she died when I was 16 and my family took over. Starting Wednesday night, the 5 sisters and my mom start the cooking process…recently I’ve added the drinking part lol. Anyway, the one constant we have is what we call the ugly turkey thanksgiving plates. We have always had thanksgiving dinner on them, they seem ancient. Brown designed plates with a colored, faded turkey in the middle. These plates are used once a year and it’s not thanksgiving without them…trust me, we had to fight cousins for them and I literally think I might be the only sister who truly appreciates them – as my sister is giving me an oh god please look as I wax poetically about them lol.

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