Playing Cards With Grandma


One of my favorite memories of my Grandma has to do with a deck of cards. When I was a little girl around eight years old, she taught me how to play Double Solitaire, Rummy, and the best one of all, Canasta. To this day, I play a mean game of Canasta thanks to a very feisty lady who always played as if a national title was on the line. I loved that about her, (and I inherited some of that competitive edge).

While the game was fun, the time we spent laughing and strategizing from the first hand to the last was precious. The last few years of her life made it impossible to hold cards or remember the rules, so it’s actually been a long time since I thought about our many games together. Revisiting these memories is an absolute joy . . .

  • When I was learning to play Rummy, Grandma refused to let me win. I must have lost 50 games before I finally got her and that’s only because my Grandpa decided to teach me the “finer points of the game.” While frustrating to lose so much, I certainly learned persistence pays off.
  • She used the same tactic to teach me Canasta.
  • Grandma loved to save aces and tens. She always said tens were my Aunt Kathy’s cards, but I think she said that to throw me off the scent. I caught on quick.
Grandma would love to play this hand in a game of Canasta!

Grandma would love to play this hand in a game of Canasta!

  • I loved to save low cards, because I knew she’d always toss them.
  • Grandma couldn’t resist picking up the pile, even if there wasn’t anything good in it. I have no idea why!
  • We would get hand cramps from holding so many cards in a game of Canasta.
  • When I was younger, she always kept score. She counted her fingers to help her add and I remember how she had trouble subtracting when it was necessary to borrow. As I got older, she passed on the scorekeeping to me . . . and I know she kept an eye on my math.
  • Grandma always swore under her breath when it looked like she was going to lose. It was hilarious! She never used any profanity around my sister and I except during a game of cards. She always said, “S**t!” when the score went in my favor towards the end of a game.
  • Canasta was a bit like a blood sport. Both of us loved the strategy. Grandma liked to lay her cards down quickly, but she always kept a pair in her hand so she could snatch the pile and create a “natural.” I had a knack for landing wild cards, which I never revealed until the end. I also loved freezing the pile with them. That strategy usually backfired, though, because Grandma always seemed to have a black three!
  • After years of playing, we looked up the rules and realized we had been playing somewhat incorrectly all along. We’d reversed the colors for a canasta (red) and a natural (black), we assigned the wrong opening point totals, and I think there were a couple of other rules we got wrong, too. Either way, I won’t play any other way because our way is my Grandma’s way.
  • We always nibbled on cookies and candy bars while we played. Grandma was never without a can of Coca-Cola.
  • We played with the same two decks for years, until the cards got so beat up they were practically marked. Once card was missing a corner and while another had a folded corner (it was a two of a spades – a wild card!). There was also a card that was literally peeling apart in three layers.
  • My Grandma is the one who taught me how to shuffle cards two different ways.
  • My sister was never one for Rummy or Canasta, but she did join in on three-handed solitaire. The insanity that ensued from playing each other’s aces was incredibly funny. I have countless memories of us laughing hysterically.

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c.b.w. 2012