My friend Mara and I have a lot in common. We both experienced a traumatic loss of a loved one 4 years ago (and in my case 2 losses), we’re both writers, we’re both from Floyd and have lived alter-native lifestyles,* we both worked at “Seeds of Light” bead shop for many years, we used to make jewelry, and we both love Scrabble.
Mara was very close to Elliot, a friend and member of our Writers’ Circle, of which both Mara and I belong, who died a few weeks ago. And I just lost my dad.
“Could you handle a game of Scrabble?” she asked me over the phone, after telling me how down she’s been feeling lately.
“Yes, it could be the perfect diversion. I think it would help us to stop, but also keep us busy,” I answered, knowing she full-well understood my logic.
“Scrabble is sanity!” she said when we met later at the Café Del Sol for a therapeutic game. She slapped her notebook down on the table, and we laughed when we noticed that it was exactly like mine, also on the table.
Judging by the papers sticking out of Mara’s notebook, I remarked that she looked to be busier than me. “But the truth is, this is only one of about 5 notebooks that I have going at the same time,” I said to her. She nodded knowingly.
It was my first day out-and-about in town since my father died. “I love the way Scrabble gives me a context to be social, and yet, I don’t have to be sociable in a direct way,” I told her.
“Yes,” she agreed, “and if someone comes over to talk to us, it’s okay to ignore them if it’s your turn to play.”
I played the first word REFUTE. “Wouldn’t Elliot have liked that word?” I said. “He hated when I played words that were too common, while I have only ever cared about what they can score,” I added.
Friends and acquaintances drifted over to talk to us. Most asked ‘Who’s winning?’
“Why can’t you ask something like who’s having the most fun?” Mara, who was losing at this point, said to one of our visitors.
We didn’t ignore anyone. We enjoyed interacting with each person who came by our table, joking and taking turns talking to them. At one point, I had a SCRABBLE (which Mara always argues should be called BINGO) on my rack, but couldn’t find a place to play it.
“Why don’t you go outside and smoke a cigarette,” I said to her, while studying the board. “I need some time to think.”
After she went outside to smoke, I elicited some help from our friends, Bernie and Chris, by announcing, “Look!” And then, “I’m having anxiety. I have a SCRABBLE (using all 7 letters for a bonus 50 points), and I’ve never had one before. But I can’t find a place to play it.”
Mara came back. I never got the SCRABBLE. I settled for the word ZERO.
“ZERO. 35 points,” I announced to Mara, who was keeping score.
“No, that’s zero. I’m giving you a zero,” she joked.
While Mara was taking her turn, I went to the computer at the table behind ours to check my blog and found a comment from my blogger friend Leanne, who was aware that I recently lost my father, which said, “I wish for you a nice cup of tea and game of scrabble, to bring you peace, challenge your mind, and ease the pain in your heart.”
I don’t believe it! I am playing Scrabble and drinking tea,” I blurted out and then read the message out loud to Mara.
“I QUIT!” she said.
You can’t quit! Why would you quit?” I asked as I got up from the computer to see what was wrong.
“No, I just played the word QUIT,” she answered with an impish grin.
It was probably the first time that we didn’t finish our game. I was shocked when I looked at the clock and realized that we had been in the Café playing for 3 hours. Mara had a school paper she wanted to read to me before we parted ways. She had to pick up her daughter, and I had a list of errands to do. We hugged goodbye and bolted out the café door, hoping to get home before the predicted bad weather.
*Post Note: Mara (shown in the photo playing her Q) and I have home schooling in common. She was a product of it, and I provided it for my sons when they were young. "Alter-natives," a play on words first coined by my Floydian friend and fellow poet, Will, refers to a community of people living a back-to-the land sort of lifestyles that may include homebirth, homebuilt, homegrown, and living off the grid.