There were twelve of us today, filling all three of the tables in Miss Margaret's large living space. There's a fourth table in the formal living room, but we have yet to expand there. The woman is prepared for every eventuality.
The snacks are whatever we bring; today there were strawberries and cookies and homemade snicker doodles created by the birthday girl, herself. We are always celebrating something or other. We sing, loudly and off-key, and make the celebrant blush, then pick up the cards and continue the games.
It's Hand and Foot, a variation of Canasta, that keeps us out of trouble on Tuesday afternoons. In partnerships at tables of 4 or as singles at tables of 3, we shuffle five or six or seven decks of cards over and over and over again, sharing health concerns and weather woes and grandchildrens' triumphs (okay, that's mostly me bragging about FlapJilly, but really, can you blame me?)
Red threes are special in this game, and they accumulate in distinct piles as the game goes on. Mixing them well is crucial, and humans seem to do a better job than the automatic shuffler. So, we cut and sproing and cut and sproing and then we cut and give half the pile to the person on our left, or on our right, or sometimes we crash in the middle of the table and the cards go flying.
It's that kind of a game, with the red threes interspersed and no one every caring very much at all.
Like backgammon, it's equal parts strategy and luck. Sometimes those threes find themselves nestled one beside the other, and sometimes they are hiding from everyone. To say that we anthropomorphize the cards would be grandiose. It might be more accurate to say that we have, from time to time, deeply personal relationships with individual numbers.
Today it was 4's. They came in waves, they were conspicuously absent, they reappeared when we least expected them and then they wouldn't stop. We were invested in them, whether we were collecting them or not. It's a friendly game, albeit, at times, a ruthless one.
There's fiendish delight in sticking the others with points and cards in their hands. There's glee when things go our way, and there is pouting and much shaking of heads when they don't. TBG sends me off to win every week; his disappointment when I am less than completely victorious is every bit as lugubrious as our pouts.
Caring about something which is essentially meaningless may be the definition of fun-in-retirement. My weeks always come back to Tuesday afternoons at Miss Margaret's kitchen table, or nestled beside her bookcase, surrounded by laughter and stories and friends.
It's not called The Happy Ladies Club for nothing, after all.