Bored Games and Turning the (Kitchen) Table


Turning The Tables by Diana Dean

Ann’s ruminations about Resurrecting the Kitchen Table brought back many memories about the kitchen table I grew up with.  Most of these memories, however, are less about the meals we shared than of the untold hours of board and card games played on that table –  animated rounds of Pinochle and Hearts, long summer afternoons spent around a Monopoly board, and fierce penny-ante poker matches.


As an aside, my sister Helen and I recently mulled over how at that table our father would keep our hard-earned pennies he won from us – to teach us about the perils of gambling.

But what stands out most in my mind about that table are images of my father teaching me to play checkers.  While other dads were coaching their sons to develop skills on how to field grounders and to swing a bat, my dad was bringing home library books on checker tactics. 

My dad seemed to be happiest when luring me into traps that netted him three jumps to my one.  Each time it was a “lesson” to always be looking a few moves ahead.

checkers majortactics

All modesty aside, by the time I was eight I had become a formidable checker player.  I recall the time when my dad invited our neighbor, Mr. Applebeck  (all of the neighborhood kids called him ”Mr. Applebucket”) to come over to play “the kid” in checkers.  We sat down at the table and in short order I had Mr. Applebeck on the ropes.  My dad loved it. 

Although my checkers prowess never earned me much that was tangible, it did bring me a fleeting moment of notoriety.   That moment was when I was in the fifth grade.  On a rainy day when we couldn’t go outside for recess. Mr. Van Buren, our teacher and an  imposing former Marine, asked if any of us students dared to play him in checkers.  I stepped forward and much to the delight of the rest of the class, soundly defeated him. 

chess pieces

So, when our son Travis came of age, it seemed only logical that I pass on to him the mantle of my checkers legacy.  Lest you think that it was chauvinistic to overlook our daughter in this regard, Sara expressed zip interest in checkers (or any other board games for that matter).  

Travis, always a quick learner, had the rudiments down in no time.  I had grand visions of him becoming the next checkers tzar.   But he soon began to refer to checkers as a “bored game”  and asked me to teach him how to play chess.  I had a nagging suspicion that he’d gotten his hands on a copy of the  New Complete Book of Hoyle which among other things states,  “In early times, it was fashionable to deprecate Checkers as ‘Chess for ladies‘.”  That’s certainly not something that could appear in print today!

Queens Gambit chess

If for some odd reason you are interested, the Queens Pawn Opening is the second most popular opening in the game.

Regardless of Travis’s reasons to move to chess, it wasn’t long before I became little more than his “pawn” in our recurring chess matches.  Sure, I did figured out how to avoid the “fool’s checkmate” (after a couple of painful experiences) and learned something about the “Queen’s Gambit”, but for a former child prodigy checkers master, it was quite humbling to lose time after time.  

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 9.50.29 PM

According to Wikipedia, there are at least 49 different chess openings that are gambits.

Even after Travis left home for college (and beyond),  whenever we got together he insisted on challenging me to a round of chess.  And every time it was the same.  I stumbled around the board until I heard the dreaded “check mate.”  

Getting back to our kitchen table theme, I am pondering if it would be appropriate to use the phrase that the table has been turned on me.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this phrase originated back in the 17th century and, get this, is based on board games.  In its literal meaning, the phrase referred to “the position of the board in a board game being reversed, hence reversing the situation of each player in the game.”

Now help me out with this.   Does it mean that if after enduring my father’s knowing smirks and comments like “are you sure you want to move there?” the table has turned when I later endure similar abuse from my son –  sitting across the kitchen table from me?  I’m finding this all too complex to sort out.  It seems that in my case it is more like turning the other cheek.

I think I will get a cup of coffee and retire to the kitchen table to mull it over.  Want to join me?  And, if you’re up to it, maybe we can slip in a quick game of checkers.



  1. sara deseran says:

    I mostly remember learning to play Pitch. Which I thought was very cool. But yes, it’s true, I ended up taking after mom and hating most things that people consider fun. Including games. #wherefungoestodie



      Agree about games. I’m not a competitor and never enjoyed most games as a kid. More of a cooperator, I guess. Hated canasta! Tolerated monopoly. Rather liked pick-up-sticks and tiddly-winks since those could involved competition against ones self. I do remember my father talking in his sleep, and the only phrase I ever heard him utter – and this on many occasions – was, “The only game to play is cards.”


  2. Deb Pool says:

    Great writing and story Andy. I just finished the weekend playing pick-up sticks with our grandchildren…agile, steady, quick studies, they loved it, as did I watching the rapid evolution!!



    Your phrase “are you sure you want to move there?” reminds me of my first debacle when using our new corporate tool: the Wang Word Processor. I spent one whole day laboring at the workstation keyboard, doing something both important and impressive. When I finished, I hit the exit key or some such and the screen came alive with the question, “Are You Sure You Want To Exit?” And, of course, I said, “Of Course!” I hit enter and it was all gone in a micro-second. Gone. Flushed away! Can you spell ‘humiliation’ any other way? A lesson learned with pain, but still serving me. Are you really sure?


  4. tricia53 says:

    Great story! So impressed with your checkers prowess at such a tender age! Rachel’s family must own well over 100 board games, most of them requiring WAY too much strategic thinking for me. But my grandkids are whizzes! You don’t want to go up against them in trivia games, either.


    • theRaggedys says:

      The board game that I played most with my grandkids was Monopoly and they quickly learned coalition theory using it to their advantage and to my constant state of bankruptcy. Don’t even mention all of the Nintendo Mario Kart bouts where I was the source of much mirth. But it was always fun and I guess that’s the point.


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