When you're the fifth of five boys, one of the things you have to deal with is hand-me-downs. I think I was about eight before I got a new pair of sneakers, and that was only because I had such big feet. Where this was most evident was with toys.
Now, in some respects, this was cool. I had fifteen years of toys to sift through. There was the train set in the attic, the portable pool we set up out back, an old go-cart, belonging to brother, Greg, which he left in the garage and countless other items. On the other hand, you have to keep in mind these playthings had gone through four previous owners, all boys.
Take a moment to think about the conditions of said items. Let me put it this way: the Erector Set wasn't even close to erect. It was actually quite "flaccid," so to speak.
Most of the toys had missing parts, pieces, cards, tokens and so forth. The Monopoly game had various household items to replace the game pieces and a couple of the deeds were hand written copies. There were several others held together with old yellow and brittle tape.
In our cottage, in Oak Bluffs, we had a couple decks of cards that were all the same: green and with a picture of a kitten in a boot. I always thought they were cute, a “Puss ‘n Boots” reference. The problem with them was that some of the cards had gotten lost and someone had just put all the decks together in one massive pile.
One rainy afternoon, in August, having nothing much else to do, I gathered up all of the cards to build a house of cards. I was actually rather good at that, I could build quite the high tower. Yet, here always came a point where my structure collapsed.
I never understood why. At that age, I didn't know much about structural engineering and the tensile strength of heavy paper. Anyway, when I was done, rather than just put the cards away, I got an idea. I wondered if I could actually pull together at least a single complete deck from this hodgepodge of chaos.
As the rain fell hard, I didn't have anything else to occupy my time. I set to work. As it turned out, there were three partial and one complete deck, and so I set the good one aside and put an elastic band around it.
It became one of our standard decks. We used it when we played gin rummy, sort of our family game, hearts and other games. I still have that deck and it has a special place in my life and in my heart.
You see, my grandparents used those cards, my Dad and most especially my brother, Steve. These days, from having watched “CSI” and other crime dramas, I understand that every time we touch something, we leave some of our skin cells, a little bit of ourselves on it.
Each time I use those cards, in real sense, I'm in contact with family members that are lost to me. It isn't much, but it sure makes me feel better.
I must remember to leave that deck to Alexa, my daughter, in my will.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.