As the traditional Christmas day festivities come to a close, my family gears up for a unique tradition. With drinks and holiday cookies in hand, we squish around the oval hardwood table to play card games. Through the years, card games like Pan Tan and Between the Sheets have become a staple of the Fetter Family holiday activities.
While I love the games, I also have come to realize the deeper significance of this annual tradition and the many important life lessons it has taught me. As I settled in between my sixty-one year old aunt and my twenty-five year old cousin, I feel the bond that unites us. Playing cards has taught me the importance of passing on traditions to the next generation. Some members of my family have passed away, but their memories live on through the stories shared around the card table. I believe the wisdom gained while playing cards will serve me well.
The first lesson I learned is to trust my instincts. I come from an extremely competitive family, and friendly trash-talking is expected. When it is my turn to deal, I always pick the same game. This causes distress to the men in our family who make remarks like, “Why do you pick girly games that take forever?” Through the uproar, I hear my aunt’s subtle voice telling me, “Don’t let them persuade you, follow your gut instinct.” Similarly, as I face the many daunting decisions about my future, I can hear the soft voice of my aunt whisper, “Be true to yourself.” These simple games have taught me to take risks.
At first, I was tempted to fold quickly with a low hand. With a little coaching, however, I learned to take chances. My aunt always said, “Take risks in the first round, as the rounds progress, play more cautiously.” Not only did that tip pay dividends in games of Guts and Mouse, but in life as well. I am not locked into one charted path; I can take risks now and live the adventure.
Most importantly, those 52 cards have taught me about love. During the holidays I have the opportunity to be with all the people that mean the most to me. In the midst of the card games there is time for stories, memories, and conversation. Only at that oval table can I discuss my uncle’s obsession with Chelsea Lately, argue politics or discuss my cousin’s adventures after college. The games are a constant, but the chatter changes.
Yes, my family must be a spectacle crammed around a small table, boasting of their winnings, and trying to keep everyone’s attention, but we are one big happy family. I know the card games have taught me life lessons I will use forever. A deck of cards is made up of diamonds, clubs, and spades, but most importantly, it is made of hearts. This I believe.