catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 14 :: 2011.07.22 — 2011.09.01


Generations of UNO

I hadn’t played UNO in so long that my dad had to explain the new deck to me.  Where the cards used to read “skip” and “reverse,” there were new fancy symbols with arrows that I didn’t understand at first. My six-year-old daughter had begged me and my dad to play with her. She started giggling as Dad instructed her to play a reverse on me and they proceeded to reverse and skip me for a series of turns leaving me with a handful of high value cards. I laughed in protest as their trash talking escalated. 

I asked my Dad, “Hey, remember all those family UNO games we used to play at Grandma and Grandpa’s?”

“Yeah,” he replied, “there would be so many people playing that you knew when you changed the color it would change a few more times before it was your turn again!”

“As a kid, I used to change the color to one I didn’t have in my hand in hopes by the time it got back to me it would be a color I did have!”

We laughed and then paused in a silent, sad reflection. Those days of rowdy UNO games with my mom’s side of the family are long gone and will never happen again.

From my earliest memory, UNO was a family staple. As soon as the table was cleared after a family dinner, someone would pull out the well-worn deck of cards. One draw-four card was mysteriously extra-worn and everyone could tell who had it in his or her hand.

My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins would crowd around the table barely leaving elbowroom, and making it easy to sneak peaks at your neighbor’s cards — not that I ever did that, of course. Good natured cheating was rampant as we’d make sure the whole table knew the color and number of the one card left in whoever’s hand had just called UNO. Often we would slide cards to each other under the table to gang up on the winner. It was best if you could play quietly and sneak in your UNO, taking everyone by surprise when you laid down your last card. I looked forward to those games. They make up some of my best childhood memories.

Within the past ten years, both of my mom’s parents passed away unexpectedly, as did one of her brothers and her sister who lost a battle with cancer. Those of us who survive are spread across multiple states and we never see each other. The child in me mourns that we can never return to those days of play and that my children won’t get to experience them.

My daughter giggles as she lays down a draw-two card on me. My Dad insists she did it on her own. As I set my growing hand of cards down in mock resignation, I realize that the game and the spirit of our family play does live on. My children are building new memories and traditions with my parents and my brother’s family.

A piece of my past is attached to my present as I share stories about the games of my past and ancestors my kids won’t meet in this lifetime. We are creating our own traditions of play in memory and honor of those who set the example for us.

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