Winters in Southwest Minnesota have a way of escalating cabin fever. Sure, school would get cancelled and my siblings and I would all rejoice singing, “Schools out for winter!” even though that’s not how the song is written.
The winter of 1996 is one that I will never forget. It inched along in a never ending sea of white flakes that covered the farm completely. In fact, it not only covered the farm, it snowed so much that my dad had to crawl out of the second story window in order to dig us out of the house.
Instead of wasting away in a house submerged by snow, my siblings and I played card games. Every day I would crawl out of bed, still wearing the same layers of clothing as the days before and join my siblings around the kitchen table.
“Alright, whose turn is it to deal?” My older brother would ask hoping to trick one of his younger siblings into breaking out of their cocoons of warm blankets. We all looked at each other hesitant to remove our hands from safe place of heat close to our bodies. The power was out again and the temperature was no doubt somewhere below zero. If you move, you risk your body heat vanishing into thin air.
Finally, my younger sister said, “I’ll do it even though I know it isn’t my turn.” I watch as she slowly removed her hands from the inside of her blanket cocoon. Her mitten covered hands emerged; she slowly removed the wool mittens to reveal another pair of gloves that were covering her soon to be frozen fingers. In a Minnesota winter, one pair of hand coverings is just not enough. Her hands shivered and began to shake as she began handing out the cards.
And there we sat, day in and day out. When the electricity would flicker on we could get a few hours of warmth from the electric heater and maybe watch a movie. During those times, we would switch to the more physical game of spoons. But, once the heater shut off and the electricity was gone, we would all retreat back to our cocoons for warmth, back into our little huddle like homeless people searching for warmth around a garbage tin of fire.
My husband always asks me how I got so good at playing card games and yet there isn’t a competitive bone in my body. My only answer is, “Well honey, after thousands of card games during the winter of 1996, I learned how to be good. Back then, games weren’t about winning or losing. They were about spending time with family, making memories, and in some cases surviving in a situation when you could easily lose your mind in a sea of snow.”