This I Believe

William - Briarcliff Manor, New York
Entered on June 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family

Playing Checkers in Grandma’s Bermuda

I don’t often see my grandmother, probably only three or four times a year. Living in different parts of the country, not only are we geographically separated, but culturally too. I read The New York Times while she read John Grisham’s latest novel. I watch CNN while she watches Animal Planet. We’re both be lost and confused in the Bermuda Triangle of the other’s entertainment choices. Alas, I’m basking in the sun and enjoying the tan in my Bermuda and she is in hers.

The last time she was over, we managed to play checkers. I had seen her earlier playing on the computer with some stranger halfway across the globe (Holland I think), and she was having quite a good time. How though could I let that stranger steal my grandmother? Checkers was located in both of our distinct realms of entertainment, our different Bermudas, and I was prepared to let Grandma know.

The game soon commenced. I must mention that I hadn’t played checkers for a very long time, probably not since some other relative from a far off land was over. Howsoever, I still remembered the general strategy: take over territory and put your opponent in zugzwang, a position in which their only move available results in loss of material. Grandma was playing almost every day. But I don’t think she knew about zugzwang. I ended up wining our game, and the one after it. Both games literally lasted to the bitter end, against protocol. I tried to explain to grandma that when one’s losing by a certain amount, one should resign. She didn’t understand.

Grandma played for the fun of it. She lived life for the fun of it. This doesn’t mean she wasn’t competitive, because she was, but it was a different type of competitiveness. I have a small library of checkers manuals, gathering dust slowly bust steadily on my bookshelf, and when I showed them to Grandma, she didn’t quite understand that either. What’s the point of reading about something if you can do that something?

I would like to say that this was due to a certain checkers’ naivety but it wasn’t. Grandma was having a good time playing so she kept doing so. We both wanted to win, but I wanted to win for the sake of winning, and she wanted to win for the sake of fun. I believe we need to do more activities for the sake of pure enjoyment, not only for the sake of success. This means going to new Bermudas, seeing what we truly enjoy, not for the purpose of educating ourselves or trying to gain social standing, but for pure bliss. Yet next time Grandma and I play checkers and she has three kings to my two, I think I will stick to decorum and surrender—though regretfully.