Inasmuch as all happy families are happy in the same way, there is not much to tell about our week-long Californian get together. We spent the week in Stinson Beach, a small town north of the Golden Gate Bridge, with Susie's sons, daughters-in-law and four grandsons, in a very lavish rental house, complete with heated pool, spa, and bocce court. The high point for me was Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday when my son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren came up from the city and rented a nearby beachfront house. One moment stands out in my mind, because of its trans-generational filiations.
In 1939, my parents rented a converted farmhouse for the summer in the Catskills town of West Shokan, New York. I was five and a half, and my big sister, Barbara, turned nine while we were there. Barbara taught me how to play War, an endless, mindless card game played with anywhere from one to four decks of cards that was just about the right speed for a five and a half year old. I have a vivid visual memory of sitting on the floor of the main room in the little house, playing a game of War with Barbara while my parents listened to the radio, visibly upset. A little historical reconstruction tells me it was probably the very first day of September, when Hitler marched into Poland, launching the Second World War.
Last Thursday, I taught Samuel, age five and a half, to play War. Since I have seventy-two years on him, I was able to gimmick the play of the cards without his noticing it so that he won. As each pair of cards was played, he would say "seven is greater than five, so I win" or "ten is greater than six, so you win." He quickly grasped that the Jack was greater than any of the numbered cards, but less than a queen or king, and after a bit he got the idea that the Ace, although a one, is better than any of the other cards. As I played, I thought to myself, "Here I am, an old man, teaching my young grandson to play the same game that my sister taught me when I was Samuel's age."
Later that afternoon, as I was walking through the living room, I heard Samuel trying to teach little Athena, age three, how to play War. It gave me a very satisfying sense of closure.