While I was down in New Jersey in a house I spent time in as a young kid, I found a lot of visual reminders of stories long forgotten.
Seeing this pack of playing cards, in a pile of games in the sun room (right where it was when I was a kid) brought waves of feelings back to me.
Irving, who’s recent death brought me to his house, was a brilliant, warm, sloppy, floppy, funny, outrageous guy who was the exact opposite of my father who was also very smart (but never knew it in his lifetime) and a control freak (like yours truly). Today we would call Irving “a character” and as a kid he was a character I liked to be around, except when it came to these playing cards.
For me, the cards represent numerous games that Irving tried to teach me as a kid and which I could not get and so, could not play. Sometimes I’d run out of the sun room crying feeling so stupid that I didn’t get the simplest card games and Irving’s wife, Hope would march in and give him hell for making me cry. He never meant to and he never tried to intimidate anyone, let alone a little kid.
He and I would start a fire in their huge fireplace (no bigger than my current one but I was a little kid) and then, he’d put me in this copper kettle that held kindling which we called “the spinning kettle” and spin me around, then Irving, his daughter Julie, and I would retire to the sun room to paw through the games and see what we wanted to do next. I have no memory of what my father, mother, and his wife Hope were doing during this time; maybe cleaning up dinner dishes and talking while Irving hung with the kids.
The trip through the threshold from living room to sun room eventually, over about five years, turned into the beginning of a self consciousness nightmare for me as I knew it was leading to games, rules, and a level of abstraction that made me feel stupid and shut me down.
I can still hear Irving’s raspy voice yelling “Tally-Ho” through his pipe and drool, as he discovered the playing cards. Maybe, just maybe he looked at my sunken face and moved on to Tinkertoys, I’m not really sure.
Much later in my life (more recently) I’ve gotten over my fears of displaying slow processing, or seeming lack of intelligence to others although I still have my bad moments. Still, it was a huge step for me to collect and actually start enjoying puzzles (solo activities) and games with other people.
It’s fascinating to track what one part of your life: self-confidence and the right amount of self-consciousness can do to affect all the other parts of your life. Seeing the playing cards and having a wave of those old feelings wasn’t really bad at all, it was more like wanting to see a scary movie so you can watch yourself being scared. My homunculus is now secure enough to watch my old movies, less to figure myself out, more to just enjoy them as pieces of a larger life.