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  • Andrew Casteel

Want to Play a Game

Updated: Sep 14


Our family loves games. We've got a closet full of games floor to ceiling like in the Royal Tenenbaums.


We've been playing board games together with my son since he was two. And we get the most gaming in over Thanksgiving when the extended family's in town.


Thats the reason why this post is so late too. Thanksgiving is a week long marathon of board gaming, cooking, and catching up on everything that's happened through the year.


Even when everything works out well, it's an intense week. And this year's Thanksgiving was more like a National Lampoon movie for me.


It started out with me getting food poisoning Tuesday night. I was devastated because we were supposed to be going to the Bay Area Reunion concert on Wednesday with MC Hammer, Toni Tony Tone, En Vogue, Luniz and Digital Underground. But then, I saw in the morning on Wednesday that the concert was cancelled.


I skipped dinner on Wednesday, shivering and chugging Milk of Magnesia and wondering if I would be missing Thanksgiving entirely. I love cooking and was planning on making chinese cucumber pickles, fried chicken and savory waffles, tritip, salmon, fresh butter and gravy. Thankfully, whatever was making me ill pushed through and I woke up feeling back to normal.


It would be hard to express how amazing it is to be able to cook your favorite things the day after you couldn't even get close to food due to waves of nausea.


My son had an amazing Thanksgiving. He played games all day with all his Grandmas, Aunts and Uncles. We caught all the monsters in My First Castle Panic. We caught all the gems in Dragon's Breath. We even played Splendor with him by asking him which card he wanted to buy and helping him choose his gems so he can buy it, while agreeing not to buy the card he was saving up for, which turned into an interesting twist in the game for us to work around as he sometimes wants the card you need.


he got to sit at the head of the table with his Grandmas at either side of him eating waffles and scallop sashimi (That's what he wanted). Then for dessert he got one of the mini cheesecakes with sprinkles and M&Ms he made with Lexi. Lexi was only there to tell him the next thing to do for the recipe. He did all the measuring and mixing. He couldn't have been happier.


The next day we were planning a trip to the brewery before we headed out to see cirque du soleil. If burning man taught me anything, it's that two people can just make a plan to head out of camp and just go with no drama. But when the whole camp wants to go somewhere together it takes 2^x minutes to get out of camp where x is the number of people going. Our x was 11. We took the time, planned the trip, who's in which car, who's picking up lunch, what everybody's lunch order was, what games to bring, what toys for my son and all the other details. Then we walked outside to find our subaru had a flat tire. Face-palm. Then we had to change all the plans again and get the car to the shop because I had a work event I needed to drive to on Saturday. After two iterations of trying to change plans to make it to the brewery before cirque, it became clear that we weren't making it out of the house.


Then we headed to Cirque du Soleil. I had decided to try to take my son for the first time. I knew it was asking a lot for his attention span and that there was a good chance he would not make it through the whole show and I might have to miss the show. It was a chance I was willing to take and I was hopeful that the spectacle would be great enough that he would be pinned to his seat in awe through the whole show. This feeling is a perfect example of the original Dad sin of every National Lampoon movie. You build the most glorious house of cards in your mind and bask in all it's glory unable or unwilling to see all the clear and present dangers that threaten to collapse your magnificent dream.


My son had not gotten a nap all week. He was at a 10 every moment with a different relative ready to play with him all the time. We talked about how there would be popcorn and M&Ms at the show for him if he stayed in his seat and kept quiet while the show was happening. We got to our seats and he was having the best time spotting all the actors that were slowly working through the crowd before the show started. "There's a blue one!" "That one's a butterfly!" Then the show started, he was fascinated by the lights going down. That's when I realized we had left on his shoes that light up each time he steps, and so did he. I got him to sit on my lap in the hopes I could keep him from dancing around. For 10 glorious minutes we bounced together to the music, gasped at each death defying leap and clapped for each landing.


That's when the snacks ran out. Then he wanted to sit in his own seat. Which turned into standing at his own seat, which turned into dancing at his own seat. Which turned into being asked to take his shoes off by an usher. He was not having it and we had to leave the show. We went across the street for fries while the rest of the family finished the show. As I was sitting there, sipping my beer, watching my son hugging each of his stuffed animals over and over again, he turned to me and asked, "When do I go back to school?". I could tell it had all been a little bit too much for him this week. He was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and just wanted to get back to his regular routine. I told him he'd be back to school on Monday, and we spent the rest of the evening looking out from the deck of the restaurant at the city, contentedly counting the trains going by. He threw two more tantrums, interspersed with bouts of running in circles while laughing hysterically before we got him in his car seat. He was so done. He fell asleep in the car at 7 and didn't even wake up when Lexi carried him up to his room.


Like all good National Lampoons movies, the moral to this one is to keep it simple. Fun needs space and ease to take hold. The more fun you try to cram into a day the more you'll lose in the process. I'll get him to see cirque one day, when he's ready. I don't regret missing out on the show. I knew it was a gamble taking him to see it this young, but I had the opportunity to show my son something so wondrous and magical that I had to take the chance. Sitting with him and his stuffed animals, Pengy, Horsey and Cheetoh-Lightning-McQueen, counting trains was not the moment I had planned, but it was the moment we needed. Maybe they'll bring back this show years later and we'll get to see it together. Then I'll tell him what his favorite pink light up shoes really cost dada.

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