It was Gran Gran’s ninetieth birthday and Grand Pop’s ninety-first birthday. They were lucky that they had the same birthday, and lucky that their family always gathered to celebrate. The year is 2051 and the place, Mendocino County, California. The entire Mandzik family had gathered for the celebration, all thirty of them. Their four children, a slew of grandchildren, and their three precious great grandchildren. A festive celebration for a festive and feisty lady. Last year the family had gathered for Grand Pop’s special birthday in San Francisco for a sail around the Bay and a picnic in Golden Gate Park. This year, however, Gran Gran wanted the party in her home, her home situated high in the golden California hills. She wanted to be surrounded by her family doing art projects, playing games, and sharing stories.
Earlier in the day tie-dye was presented. It was a family tradition and they were all pretty expert by now. The tie-dye craze began in the 1960’s and was still going strong. There had been some quiet years, but ever so often the swirls of color made a comeback. Gran Gran, of course, had never stopped wearing her colors or decorating their home in rainbow and Rasta shades. In fact, one room, Jove’s room, painted green, red, gold, with black trim in 1995 was still the same. And it was still everyone’s favorite room.
The day had been splendid. The warm cool breeze of the late August day still lingered as the magnificent golden sun slipped beneath the hills and out of view.
The delicious veggie bbq was complete, the strawberry cake cut and eaten, 91 multicolored candles blown out with all three great grandchildren adding their powerful breath. Yes, a splendid day.
And now, the speech. Her four children knew their mother was about to take the floor and it might take hours before she stopped speaking. Well, it was her day. She had written an article for the AVA, Anderson Valley Aviator, reflecting on her life, all 90 years of it. This speech would be a thumbnail sketch of that lengthy article. Clearing her throat, Gran Gran began, speaking to her most vivid memories.
“Well, I remember so many things. Watching the moon landing on television on a small grainy screen in 1969. The birth of my children, the excitement over the birth of our grandchildren and great grandchildren. The election of our first black president. The many marches for Women’s Rights and Environmental Protection Laws. And of course I remember the frightening Pandemic of 2020. The shelter-in-place order. You know, that nightmare turned out to have some positive consequences. The air quality got better, people learned to appreciate the smaller things of life and of course everyone became more proficient on their computer, especially with the app Zoom. Virtual parties became a great success.”
“That’s old school now, Gran Gran,” Aurora yelled. “It’s virtual everything now.”
The group laughed as Gran Gran again cleared her throat and continued. “Yes, that Pandemic, as frightening and deadly as it was, it had some positive outcomes which resulted in great changes from 2020 to today. Especially important was that the world leaders began working together and the outcome was astounding. They tackled the Climate Crisis head on as division became obsolete and inclusiveness and respect became most important.”
As Gran Gran continued her memories, her great granddaughter Aurora poked her cousins, Sol and Cassie and said. “Oh, come on. Gran Gran might speak for hours. Let’s go to her special closet.”
Quietly, the three children snuck off the deck and went into to their favorite room in the house and opened their favorite closet door.
“Whoa”, Sol said in awe. “Look at all these games.”
“And look at how neat this closet is, everything is in perfect order.” Ten-year-old Aurora added as her three-year-old cousin Cassie pulled on her skirt.
“Lift me, lift me. Take that one down,” she said pointing to the Simpson’s Clue Game.
“And that one,” her seven-year-old cousin Sol said excitedly. “Look it’s Harry Potter Clue.”
“And this one,” their Great Uncle Teal said reaching for the original Clue Game his mother had played in the early 1960’s.
The three children were delighted. Three different versions of Clue. And all still in great condition.
Putting the games on the table Aurora carefully opened each box and spread out the different boards. “Look at this, every room is different. The Harry Potter one has a Trophy Room and a movable stairway. And the Simpsons one has the Kiwik-E-Mart. And look the original has the Library and someone named Professor Plum!”
Just then Gran Gran and her granddaughter, Zora, walked into the room. “Mom, look at these three Clue Games,” Aurora said to her mom, Zora, in delight.
Zora looked at her grandmother and her Uncle Teal with a huge smile on her face. “You save everything, Grandma.”
Her Uncle Teal looked at the Harry Potter game board. His hazel eyes twinkled as he said, “I remember playing this game in 2020 when you were ten-years-old Zora.” Smiling down at Sol he added, “and your dad was seven-years-old. It was some game.”
“That’s right”, Gran Gran remembered, “it was during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
We were all together in your parent’s home. We were all in lockdown and had to make the best of a scary situation.”
“That’s right,” Uncle Teal added smiling at his niece, “everything was closed, even schools, so your parents had to help you do virtual school work. And at night we’d play games.”
“I remember,” Zora said. “I got better on the computer and it was fun having the family together but I sure missed playing on the playground at school. My friends and I always had contests on the bars.”
“I remember the tricks you did,” Gran Gran said hugging her granddaughter. “Yes, we all made the best of a difficult situation, and playing Harry Potter Clue was fun. In fact, I remember one specific night and one specific game.”
Slowly, Gran Gran began to reminisce and tell her story as the rest of her family gathered to listen. Smiling at her three precious great grandchildren she cleared her throat and continued.
“I hadn’t played Clue in so many years so I had to reacquaint myself with marking the sheet and learning some of the new aspects of the Harry Potter world.”
Interrupting, Teal added, “Well, Mom. As it turned out it didn’t really matter how you marked your sheet or learned the extra rules. I remember I made a guess pretty quickly in the game, one hundred percent convinced I was correct. Then I and didn’t understand why I had guessed incorrectly and was suddenly out of the game.”
“Ha ha,” his nephew River laughed, “that was my fault, I had a card in my pocket. Accidentally, of course”, he said smiling at his son Sol. “I also always kept spilling tea on my cards. Again accidentally,” he added with a twinkle in his eye.
“That’s right,” his sister, Zora, said. “And when we cleaned up we discovered another card underneath the board. Grandma guessed correctly though. How did you do that?”
Looking at her granddaughter, Gran Gran laughed. “A process of elimination I guess, or luck. What I remember about that game was how fluid it was. We jumped around the board, taking our moves and making our guesses but we also made tea, ate cookies, and you, Zora, even presented a magic trick halfway through the game.”
“That’s right, I remember my magic trick. Hiding fuzzy balls under colorful cups. And look,” Zora said pointing to a box in the closet, “another magic kit.”
“Yes, that was some evening. Playing with Harry and Ron in the Trophy Room and drinking tea and watching magic. Yes, some evening. We certainly handled shelter-in-place successfully.” Gran Gran said with a smile.
Looking down at her three great grandchildren she continued, “we were in a rough spot in 2020 but the world kept singing John Lennon’s song “Imagine” and we all reached out to one another and the world began to heal itself.”
Slowly, Gran Gran began humming, then with her raspy ninety-year-old voice, she began singing as her family joined in, “Imagine all the people....”
“Say”, Gran Pop said after the Mandzik family rendition of “Imagine” was complete, “let’s play Clue!”
“I’m Harry,” Sol called.
“ I’m Homer,” Great Uncle Teal called.
“I’m Mrs. White,” Gran Gran called.
So on this beautiful balmy Mendocino evening the Mandzik family of four generations opened three board games, divided up into groups, made tea, passed out cookies, and settled down for fun.
Midway through the game Aurora and her mom presented a magic trick and Sol never spilt his tea!