Five Hundred-Another Link
“The adults played five hundred during the afternoon.” “…they might play cards.”
Several scenes from Steeple in the Distance’s first version were reduced to those passing references. When a quick scan yielded the two, I didn’t look further. The first manuscript was a stew pot, an unwieldy hodgepodge which required culling. Though the detailed scenes were curtailed, the game was not expelled. Germans play five hundred.( They also play Schafkopf. Because spelling the German was a challenge, I opted out of mentioning it.) The game of five hundred is another link in the chain of my family heritage and apart of the story which deserves a mention.
I grew up with the card game. My parents played. My aunt and uncle played. The days of their visits culminated around the dining room table. My sister and I were preempted from our bed for the visitors. We slept on the living room sofa bed. The living room which opened to the dining room. The snap of cards being shuffled, the murmur of bids, the slap of cards laid, we could drift into sleep with those. But… When a hand was finished, the last trick triumphantly captured or agonizingly lost we were startled awake. The excited chatter of the hand’s replay, studded with laughter and groans, was impossible to sleep through. “The left bauer was in the blind.” “I couldn’t come back to your indication.” “You had the fail.” “That was a tricky finesse.”
Far from being annoyed, I loved to listen. The language held secrets I strove to understand. Indication, inkle. trump, fail, bauers left and right. I understand now what I didn’t then. My grandparents played, my parents played, my husband and I play. So do our children, often at our dining room table or on the porch. I doze off to the snap of shuffled cards, the not so quiet exchange of bids, the escalating thump of comments throughout the hand, the explosion of triumph and agony. Earplugs enable my husband to sleep. Sometimes I sleep through it, sometimes I choose to listen.
In the past few years, the grandchildren have been introduced to the game. It’s a link with history, a part of our heritage. The two facts make it important enough for an honorable mention.
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