It’s been almost 10 years since I last played Canasta.
It was an early Saturday morning, I’m sure. Mom and the boys were most likely still sleeping. Dad had woken me up with the smell of his daily dose of hazelnut coffee. Sleepy-eyed, yawning and wrapped up in a blanket, I meandered into the kitchen to join him. Sitting at the kitchen table of our cottage, he was already deep into a game of solitaire. Happy to have some company, he shuffled the cards back up and pulled out the Canasta Deck.
“Should we play?” he asked quietly.
“Sure” sixteen-year-old me replied as I snuggled into the chair across from him.
He dealt us each 11 cards and that was it. We probably played the game until the rest of our family woke up. My mom probably made bacon and eggs and toast. After breakfast, we probably each retreated back to our own corners of the house to read books from the library. A family of quiet, sensitive introverts finding peace in Northern Michigan.
Ten years later, I found my dad’s old deck. The cards are worn, but somehow none have been lost. The discard tray still reminds me of an ashtray and they still smell exactly like the cottage; slightly musty as if someone forgot how to open the window. My boyfriend had never heard of this version of Canasta. (Which I must say is exponentially better than the middle school version most people know). This version of Canasta involves planning and patience and math, which is probably why I love it so much.
But then it hit me that I had completely forgotten the game’s complexity. It had taken me years of watching my brothers, aunts, and father play before I fully understood the flow. I was out of practice and my memory was failing me. After the initial shock of realizing how much time had passed wore off, I googled the instructions.
And I remembered each step with vivid detail. I remember asking questions when it didn’t make sense. I remember my father’s patience in explaining each part to me. I remember begging my brothers to play so we could have teams of two. I remember my mom telling us to put it away because it was almost time for dinner and we needed to set the table.
I remember my family at its best.
My dad may no longer be here to patiently answer my questions, but I feel blessed to have to opportunity to continue his tradition. To patiently teach my own family not only how to play the game, but how to come together and be our family at its best.