Love is name of game when it comes to family
By Michael C. DeMattos
Every year, I organize a cribbage tournament for the family and friends of the DeMattos brood. It has been going on for nine years and is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Some may argue that there are two types of families: those who are gaming families and those who are not. My family has always been a gaming family. Sometimes I wish we owned stock in Milton Bradley.
We played the classic board games such as Monopoly, Scrabble, and Risk, as well as the traditional games of chess and checkers. My favorites were the card games. I loved gin rummy and trumps.
My father's game of choice was chess, but my earliest memories of his gaming side involved the playing of cribbage.
Dad worked at the naval shipyard and then later at the submarine base. I remember being sick one day and unable to go to school, so he took me to work with him. We arrived at his office early, he picked up his encrusted coffee cup and together we headed to the coffee room.
Dad emptied the previous day's dregs and poured himself a new cup of the dark brew and then sat down at a vacant table. Within seconds, one of his buddies showed up with a cribbage board and deck of cards in hand. The room smelled of wet grinds and cigarettes butts as the game commenced.
It sounded like numerical incantations: "15 for two," "31 for two," "a run of three for three and a go."
I was mesmerized and unbeknownst to me, hooked for life. Nearly 30 years later, the game goes on.
Dad, now in his late 70s, still joins the fray, as do many of our closest family and friends. We start early in the morning and end later the same evening. There is food and drink aplenty and a solid dose of mirth. The winner of the tourney gets a custom-crafted koa cribbage board, one year's worth of bragging rights, and their name on the perpetual trophy.
The day before the tournament is a lot like the day before Christmas. I have trouble sleeping because of all the excitement.
Like Christmas and the other major holidays, the cribbage tournament is a lot of work. The actual event is just a single day, but the preparations begin nearly two months earlier.
There are invitations to send out, goodwill games to be played, a recap sheet of the previous year and predictions for the upcoming year, and, of course, the crafting of the board.
It is quite an ordeal and has its share of tension, but it is worth it.
When asked about the tournament, I often tell people that the competition is less than one would expect and the play better.
More important than the game of cribbage are the people. Cribbage serves as a wonderful backdrop to the more important aspect of the day: getting together with those I care most deeply about.
Maybe I was right those many years ago. A numerical spell was cast, and it brings us together each year in the name of family and friendship.
Michael C. DeMattos has a master's degree in social work. He is a family therapist, educator, trainer, storyteller and angler, and lives in Kane'ohe with his wife and 5-year-old daughter. Reach him at: Family Matters, Island Life, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; fax 525-8055; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.