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"You cheating!" "That doesn't count!" "I said it first!" "I only cheat in Uno."

Phrases shouted from the top of our lungs inside the screened in back porch of my parent's house. The residual smell of the grill stayed in the air combating the brownies that were forming in the oven. Inviting my uncle and cousins over for the 4th of July eating and fellowshipping turning a civil meal to a heated competition.

As my dad sent me to find the board game "Blurt" I started to reminisce on the old days where our family time consisted of this game. Many others as well, but nowadays we watch a streaming service crowding around a TV sitting in silence and calling it family night. At one point, we got three movies from Netflix sent in the mail that we had to watch in a certain period of time, otherwise we had to pay the full cost. I can't tell you how many movies we forgot to send back and end up keeping for our own collection.

Being a 90's baby, I got the full experience of life before technology as well as growing up with it. I will always enjoy board games, my favorite of all is chess, but Monopoly and Blurt and Taboo are top tier.

The game Blurt is where a designated person reads the description of a word off of a card and the participants are supposed to literally blurt out the answer. It was eleven of us and we spent the first 20 minutes trying to decide the most effective way to hear the first person. We thought about playing teams because of the number of pieces per person there were, but we remembered we had an older version upstairs in the attic for everyone to have their own.

I went and found that game too, it took me awhile and just like any attic I was sweating because of the immense heat trapped inside. Reading the new versions description we learned that the game was played slightly different but it wasn't too hard to get a hang of. My dad brought out two bells for the first person to ring when they had the answer but realized that wouldn't work either.

We decided that whoever answered it correctly would be the next one to read and pass the cards around that way, making it as fair as possible. Our fear was that wives would cheat for their husbands, kids for their parents, and parents for their kids. None of that happened, everyone was vying for themselves.

In the Marshall household, competition is as close to us physically fighting as we'll ever get. We are all winners at heart, our parents instilled that into us, to be number one at all cost. As my brother Sl1m would call it, "It's not cheating, it's persuasion." We always try to confuse each other or make it seem one way when it's really not just to get ahead or to make the other person move backwards. We use deception jokingly, to win by any means.

I remember doing this one time over a Zoom call during lockdown of the virus and people outside of our family couldn't take it. They didn't understand, felt as if we were coming for them or being unfair but that is just the way we grew up playing. I see, now, as we've gotten older that we get it from our dad who is the King of this particular trait. Sl1m got so excited one time that he knocked over a lot of the pieces and we tried to create a rule that he had to move four paces back since he almost ruined the game.

My 15 year old cousin ended up winning the game, a wiz in his own right, might be a genius if he ever underwent the test. Maybe he already has, but him and his brother have an immaculate vocabulary and are witty. I know they get it from their intelligent parents, I hope that my kids will be attracted to my vocabulary in ways that they are wanting to retain and regurgitate it.

After a colorful game we brought out Taboo. Most people know that this game can divide a family, possibly not wanting to talk for sometime after it's over. In Taboo, there is a list of words under the given that your team has to guess but the one holding the cards had to describe it without using the words on the card. If said, the other team will get a point and the reader would have to go to the next card. It's also timed, so our brains were working as we tried our hardest to use synonyms to paint a picture for our team to make the connection.

This ensued more arguing than Blurt did, more persuasion and checking of the rules. It was almost like playing pickup basketball at the local recreation center where people challenged every call and claim there was a foul when they just lost the ball. I know that the neighbors down the street heard us hollering answers and arguing the rules, we have no limits to our tones.

Both my parents' next door neighbors were outside grilling as well, one had their kids out on their waterslides and the other was playing cornhole and music. I wonder if we were a nuisance as we yelled and Onyx barked at our excitement.

We ended in an argument, me and my brother Edmond fighting over letting half a word slide and saying the word within a word. Our cousins had enough of our bickering and ended up leaving fighting enough to end the games for the night, and it was getting dark we could've did that all night.

It wasn't a relationship ending debate nor was it a threat to the next hour but we kept arguing it out for 30 minutes at least. I had a blast! It took me back to the old days, simpler times and days before life took us by the throat. At least us kids, I'm sure my parents already been through it a couple times but I surely hadn't a clue what age would bring.

Speaking of, I have a temporary hearing virtual court date next Friday that will allow me to see Amelia before the actual court date is set. It's in the first week of my new job so I made sure to call my boss and let him know that I will need 15-30 minutes that Friday to turn in this paperwork and affidavits.

Affidavits are written testimonies to me being a good father from friends and family that have seen me with Amelia and have known that she has been kept away from me. I'm excited for the opportunity to fight in court but it's also nerve racking, knowing that my ability to be a father is placed to a man or woman who doesn't know me but from eight pages of paper. It's sad that me being a father is boiled down to that, it all could be so much easier.

I'm still believing in the full custody but the lawyer doesn't have the faith that I will even get the joint custody that I'm asking for. Saying that the South Carolina courts frown on sharing custody of the child, which bewilders me, but if that's the case maybe they will see me as the most fit parent. Especially, with my new job and the ability to have affordable child care and to work and have Amelia in the same place. I'm sure it'll be a blessing, God has me in this place for a reason.

I also learned that my old prep school coach is in Goldsboro as a principal of a private school and is looking for a varsity head basketball coach. That's awesome! God at work, even if I don't get the job right now it is possible that I will get it later down the line after I move to the city and have a solidified schedule. I see God moving, and it's exciting. I'm glad to have followed his Word and continuing to seek his face, I want all that he has in store for me.

I love my daughters, and regardless of how hard it seems I will continue to fight for you both. Amelia and Amara, daddy loves you more than anything.

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