It's that awkward time of a Sunday morning when it's too early for lunch, nothing's on TV, I've read the paper and it's raining like a slow divorce. Rainy days like this remind me of when I was growing up. To kill the time, we went to the board games.
It's funny how your entire life can be relived in just a few Google-clicks. In looking for an image of the Parcheesi game (above), it sparked a brain cell or two of all the games we used to play growing up on rainy days. It also provides some added tidbits of trivia; for example, I didn't know Parcheesi was the National Game of India. Nor did I know it was first marketed to the world in 1867?! Colorful and simple, it was a game we could all play without getting into a fight (see Monopoly).
Some of the other games were definitely age and gender specific. Take for example, the game my sisters loved, Mystery Date. Say what you will about the simplicity of Parcheesi, but no other game made 10 year old girls scream with delight like when they turned the knob and opened the door of their MYSTERY DATE!
It was blatant and hilarious stereotyping at it's best, racist and elitist at worst. Note to all "nerd" types: our "look" has finally come into fashion. There was a playboy, a jock, a cab driver...just seeing if you're paying attention. So, if you were the little brother and wanted to play (of course you did), no matter who you opened the door on, it was cause for tittering at your expense.
That's about the time we'd cause the game to expectantly fly up into the air. And then we'd start another we could all get serious about: The Game of Life. Dah-dummmmm. Accumulating a carload of kids and getting insurance for your house while getting tax penalties was indeed a game about life, but not sure exactly what was fun about it. Oh- that's right- the people. Funner than filling your pie for Trivial Pursuit, it was the only important thing in The Game of Life: accumulating kids. To make it more accurate, they should have had food stamps, school lunch credits and Wal-Mart coupons.
At the end of the road, retirement awaited. When a Lifer reached the crossroads, he repaid his loans and parked the car in Countryside Acres or the ritzy Millionaire Estates, if he thought he had more money than his opponents. When everyone else had joined him, all the players counted their money, their stocks, their life insurance…and surprise, the Lifer with the most loot won. UPDATE: We are the 99%, indeed.
And then, as in real life, you join the local bingo hall and develop an attachment for polyester.
Simpler games were available for less cerebral stimulation. Take for example, Mouse Trap. Build a Rube-Goldberg contraption, pull the lever and see if you can get the pre-fab plastic pieces assembled the way they were meant to without tearing a hole in the board and make the little bowling ball go through the trap. (Hey, I said it was less cerebral) Note: if you lose the ball, a marble will work. A golf ball will not. Or, what about the game Cootie? As in, you've got them. Construct a cootie bug and you win. THIS WAS REAL.
Anything that amounted to the suspense of something falling, breaking or buzzing was a big hit. Operation caused the most anxiety, however, as I began to sweat when it was time to remove the funny bone, only to feel a stronger than usual "jolt" of 9-volt generated punishment for doing so. Followed by a slight spritz my the Underoos.
Another fave of mine that is apparently still around, Don't Tip the Waiter. A stupid balancing game whose name was the most clever aspect. Jenga!, another balancing game, was simply about appearing to be deft enough to not topple the tower of wooden blocks. Jenga!, by the way, oddly resembles the Spanish four letter word you might actually yell if you were playing with adults and the dog knocked this thing over.
But there was one game I enjoyed only slightly more than Clue and that was Masterpiece. A game that involved only luck and collecting famous works of art you've paid for at auction, only to find out they could be forgeries. But, it included the names of the artists and the titles on the cards. As a kids' game, you were exposed to the world's most famous artists and their paintings. I'm SURE one reason Grant Wood's American Gothic is ingrained in the American conscience is because of this game. Or artists like Whistler and Rothko. WTF? Seriously, this was one cool game.
You could always get Mom and Dad involved in a project, like Shrinky Dinks or Shrunken Heads. Again, I'm not sure where people's minds were in those days, but an activity that involves putting plastic into a hot oven seems dicey at best.
But, by the time you went through all the games under the sofa, it had likely stopped raining. Or Ultra Man was on. And, all was as right as rain.