Anne Horrigan Geary: Playing cards

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DALTON — I always was a night owl, and often read late at night. Murder mysteries take on an extra jolt of excitement when the church bells toll midnight. But now that my eyes are less able to read the small print of paperbacks for hours on end, I have returned to another favorite pastime — playing cards.

Although I still pack a deck of cards when we travel, most of my playing is of the electronic kind. My current favorite is "Spider Solitaire." It reminds me of all the hours I played original solitaire with a deck of sticky old cards, sitting on the porch on a rainy day. As its name implies, the game is played solo, but if two people want to play, and only one deck of cards is available, they just take turns.

When I power up the laptop in the wee hours of the morning, I don't have to deal with sticky cards. I don't have to deal the cards at all. One mouse click does all the work for me, so I don't have to worry about shuffling or splaying cards all over the floor when the shuffling goes awry. My biggest problem is wearing out the batteries in my wireless mouse.

I have always been a card player. My parents were card players too. When I was young, my parents' Saturday night activity was playing cards, usually with assorted aunts and uncles. I got to watch, and fill in when someone needed a to prepare a snack or take a bathroom break. I learned the intricacies of pinochle and pitch at an early age. I still love to play pitch when there are enough players to make the game exciting.

Canasta became an obsession when I received for Christmas a Hopalong Cassidy canasta set, which included cards with Hoppy astride his horse and a brown plastic saddle replica which held the two decks of cards. I wish I knew what happened to that saddle! Playing canasta without it is just not the same.

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Cribbage is another game of my youth and young adulthood. My parents played it often, sitting at the kitchen table. My husband's family played too, and he received the world's biggest cribbage board one year as a gift. It was a coffee table-size board. The top was in the shape of a whale. When you live in New Bedford, there are lots of whale-themed objects for sale, a nod to its whaling history.

Our kids always played cards at Gramma's house; but, as a family, we were more apt to play board games. Sometimes, we did play "Uno," and there was one crazy card game called "Slap the Berry Bird," which could be fun until the slapping got out of hand.

I think of all those card-related fun times when I sit in the blue glow of the computer screen at 1 a.m. and click the mouse repeatedly, until I win a game or my weary eyes start to close. I tell myself that the reason I play, or do the daily newspaper puzzles, is to exercise my aging brain; but that's not completely true.

I like the challenge of trying to win at something. I have never been athletic, so winning at sports was never an option. My little gray cells can still do mental push-ups though, and I love to put them through their paces either early in the morning or late at night. According to Microsoft, I am now at an "expert" level in my gaming. Who am I to argue with such an electronic monolith? Maybe my next challenge should be to find electronic Hopalong Cassidy canasta.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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