Playing Solitaire doesn't mean you're all alone

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My husband, Don, comes from a family tradition of impulse buying, especially large purchases. There are stories of his parents going out for ice cream and coming home with a new color television. Or a dining room set. "It is the way of my people," he says.

On the other hand, I come from a tradition of wait and see. Check prices. Wait for a sale. As you can imagine, it made for some heated debates, especially early in our marriage. However, after 32 years, we've adapted to each other's needs. And we've learned to set priorities. The number one priority is each other and time spent together. Next on the list come our faraway daughters and time to spend with them. Everything else is less important.

So a couple of months ago, on the way home from buying gas at Costco, we stopped to just look at small, Class C motorhomes. Not one of the land yachts you see rolling down the highway. Small.

You see, camping is another tradition in my family. I grew up with two weeks in the mountains every summer. Long weekends carved out by a blue-collar dad who simply loved to go. In fact, most Thanksgiving weekends were not spent at Grandma's, but out at Joshua Tree or Anza-Borrego in the Southern California dessert.

In addition, Don and I met on a camping trip while in college. Our first date was a camping trip and we took our first daughter camping at the tender age of four months. We have slept on the ground, in tents, in a pickup truck, a station wagon, VW camper buses and in pop-up trailers.

Don and I hope to be traveling and camping together for at least another 20 years or so, well into our 70s. We want to visit our children and (someday) grandchildren wherever they live too. Therefore, on that sunny Saturday, we bought a little, brand-new, Class C. Just big enough for us and a couple of those someday grandkids. Impulsive, perhaps, but fully in keeping with our priorities.

Still, I worried what my thrifty parents would think about the purchase of such a large toy. My weekly telephone conversations with them stopped over a year ago. Dad died in 2003, Mom in 2004. Nevertheless, I was hoping for a sign, some reassurance.

On the first weekend we tried out the new motorhome at Davis Creek, I broke out a deck of cards and started a series of Solitaire games. Playing Solitaire is another tradition passed from my parents.

Mom taught me how to play the standard Solitaire - the one with seven piles. My best friend Gail taught me a strange little game we call Auntie Doris's. Dad taught me to play Sing Sing Solitaire. He learned it as a young man from my Auntie Paula. He played constantly while in the hospital for a month during World War II. The legend goes that playing the game is just as hopeless as being a prisoner in Sing Sing. Dad played it his entire life and only won once, or so he said.

My Solitaire routine is to play those three games in order - a game of Sevens, then Auntie Doris's, then Sing Sing. I play one game until I win, then go on to the next, always ending with Sing Sing because nobody ever wins that.

On that shakedown weekend, I started my usual sequence. I won the second game of Sevens I played and the second game of Auntie Doris's. So I went on my game of Sing Sing, consisting of laying out one card at a time and moving it in a prescribed way by matching numbers or suits. The goal is to end with all the cards in one pile.

Sometimes you end up with cards filling the entire table. I've gotten close before, but never won in nearly 50 years of playing. But this particular afternoon, as I played and moved the last few cards, the number of piles laid out before me began to shrink. And with the last card I played, I moved them all into one pile. I'd won. And with my husband watching. Was that the sign I'd been looking for?

A few weeks later, on a second little outing to Grover Hot Springs, the wind was howling outside. Again, I began playing my cycle of Solitaire games. Once again, I quickly won at the first two. Once again, I won at the impossible-to-win Sing Sing Solitaire. Twice in a month. How could that be?

Well, even though I was playing Solitaire, I don't think I was alone. I like to believe Mom and Dad were there, giving me the sign that yes, indeed, the motorhome was a good idea. And just to be sure I actually got the message, they sent it twice.

"It's OK. Relax and enjoy each other and the motorhome."

Thanks Mom and Dad. We will.

n Lorie Schaefer teaches kindergarten at Seeliger School.


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