I don’t remember a lot of specifics about the vacations we took when I was growing up, but there are many other things I remember well – like playing the game “Pit” with my family. “Pit” is that fast-paced commodity trading game where one person calls out the number of cards he wishes to trade until another person holds out an equal number of cards to exchange. Everyone plays at once and the first person to have nine cards of the same commodity wins by ringing a bell and calling out “Corner on X!” where the commodity could be Flax, Hay, Oats, Rye, Corn, Barley, or Wheat. (In today’s world, that would be Oil, Rice, Coffee, Sugar, Soybeans, and GMO Corn.)
The reason the game is so etched in my childhood memory is because of how my Mom played the game. She cheated. And not just a little, but full on. She would look at your cards before she would trade with you. She’d intercept trades that she wanted. She’d dial up the volume on an already insanely loud game. And, most brazenly, she would take cards out of my poor younger sister’s hand. Anything to win. And it always made us (except maybe my sister in the early years) laugh hysterically. She wasn’t going through the motions of an Uno game that won’t end, she was fully in. But more than that, she was committed to the fun of the game in a way that spoke our language. SHE was fun.
Brett and I aren’t naturally playful parents. We’re both eldest children who like lists. In the box, as you might say. Although I do like to bust a move. But kids love playful (not just dorky) parents, so we try. Because we know that our kids will remember the moments of us being playful more than they will remember where we took them for Mid Winter Break 2013. And guess what? Yesterday we scored a Memory Making Moment.
We call the game “L-Yard” for “Limpertsberg Yard.” The inspiration for the game came from Colin
who has been playing the board game Scotland Yard (a fun game by the way.) His idea was for us to play a chase game in
our neighborhood where he and I would be one team and Lawton and Brett would be
on the other. The team being chased
would have to reveal hints of their location periodically via text and surface
at a specific location during the hour.
Buses would be in play. Building
on his idea, we got to work on the rules. Kids like that too. Taking their ideas and brainstorming to make them even cooler.
- We marked the geography -- our neighborhood of Limpertsberg which is home to several high schools and a university. It’s a good sized area that required decent walking shoes. You were allowed to go into shops and bakeries, but as it was Sunday – everything was closed. I brought money just in case.
- You were allowed to take any mode of transportation within the neighborhood. Brett and I both took our bus passes. Mine was maybe expired, but I carried it anyway to avoid young anxiety about being taken to jail by the bus police.
- The team being chased would have to send a hint of their whereabouts every 10 minutes on the tens via text. Brett and I synched the time on our phones. I was one minute late on our first clue and got the “u r late” rebuke.
- The chasing team would be allowed to ask one yes/no clarifying question via text after each hint and the other team had to respond accurately within two minutes. If someone had watched Jeopardy! growing up (or listened to the rules carefully) they would know that “Are you closer to Ave Pasteur or our apartment?” is incorrectly phrased.
- The team being chased would have to surface at a specific park one time during the hour. To make the surfacing count, they would have to touch a slide and send an out-of-sequence text upon touching the slide. (Next time, I’m thinking of adding some out-of-sequence hunted versus hunter texts that only Mommy and Daddy read.)
- The team being chased would get a 10 minute head start.
- The team being chased would be caught if the chasers came within 50 feet. This was to equalize for running speed. I am fleet of foot.
This game had it all. A hunt that involves tactics, transportation, teamwork and technology. Round one ended with Colin and I being caught at the 55 minute mark. We spent most of our time on the move, took two buses, collaborated on clever hints, but were spotted on our way into the park. The Angry Bird cornered us. For round two, we switched teams. Lawton wanted to stay on the chasing team. Smart boy as his strategy as the pursuer was to move less, hover more. He threw out street names, offered opinions on the mind of his former teammate, and made sure I held my phone out at all times to not miss a clue. Brett and Colin covered a lot of ground, and were tricky with clues about their whereabouts. They even encircled us once. But Round two ended prematurely in the park with Colin losing his shoes. Cuz that’s what happens when you need to run and you don’t tie your laces cuz you think it looks cool.
We played for almost two hours. The boys were in heaven, and Brett and I were somewhere close. Everything shuts down here on Sundays – it’s like a Christmas holiday once a week. Earlier in the weekend, we were annoyed that not only are the car dealerships closed on Sundays but they close at noon on Saturday – cuz our rental is up and we need a car! But on a day where you can’t run a single errand, where the streets are quiet, and everyone is home with their family – you CAN play “L Yard.” And I guarantee it will be like Christmas.