Scrabble came into my life the year it was invented, 1948. The godparents of one of my brothers had sent the game to him for Christmas and in pre TV days, it was quite a wonder. In our large family there were always a few kids willing to get a game going.
Little did I know that this charming scene _ children sprawled on the floor by the fireplace, dogs contentedly snoozing by our sides, cups of cocoa with little marshmallows melting on them_ could turn into something else over the years. Something more like out and out war.
We always were a competitive bunch and Parcheesi and Chinese checkers just didn’t satisfy the blood lust that grew from a good game of Scrabble. Over the years there was hardly an occasion where two or more of my siblings gathered that the old rickety Scrabble board didn’t join the party. Within a short time the war cries were heard: “You can’t do that!” “That’s not a word!” “Challenge him!” “No, you challenge him!”
More colorful exclamations and accusations entered the yelling vocabulary as we grew older.
A few years ago the Texas-born new wife of one of my brothers, commented while watching a particularly rancorous battle, “Y’all sure get worked up over some game!”
One brother had been known to pretend sneeze on the board and disrupt all the tiles when he wasn’t doing as well as he believed he should. That was before we upgraded to a deluxe set with recessed positions for the letters, as well as a turntable with which to turn the board. A new bag replaced the old one that had been several times patched with duct tape
Another offered the word “que” and I challenged him, saying it wasn’t a word, but should be “queue.” He fought for it and I got so sick of his utterly childish behavior, I gave in. The next round I used “que” and he challenged me, said it should be “queue.” I cited precedent from the earlier game but he would not give in. What followed was very loud and not at all pretty.
One of my brothers is an emergency room nurse who plays Scrabble with his co-workers whenever there is a lull in saving people’s lives. He’s good. A sister honed her Scrabble skills while spending time in a rehab hospital. She’s really good.
And now my children and my children’s children are players. This past Christmas I got a call from a granddaughter in Cincinnati, who, instead of saying “Hello” or “Merry Christmas” began the conversation with “Is niacin a word?”
I recently visited family in Virginia and brought the official Scrabble dictionary as a gift. We decided we didn’t like it because it allows just about anything, especially two-letter combinations that make words we never use.
You can play Scrabble on line these days. And I was recently given a book titled “Word Freak” which is about organized competitive Scrabble.
The summer Scrabble season is almost here and it will be a good year, I feel. This year everybody in our family is old enough that we don’t have to go easy on the little ones.
Let the games begin.