Every Tuesday was Pinochle day for the Tupin club, hosted at my grandparent’s house. Card playing was a very serious activity. I could make myself seen on Pinochle day but as soon as the cards started to shuffle I was to leave the adults to their game.
On more casual nights when my grandparent’s played Pinochle with my parents I sat on grandpa’s lap and watched. He let me point to which cards I thought he should pass to his partner and which one he should lead or follow with for the tricks. At six it was still to complex a game for me to play on my own against the adults, so grandpa taught me rummy. I wanted to play rummy ALL THE TIME. It became mind numbing for grandpa and so one day he said, “I’m tired of that crap. I’m going to teach you a real game.” And that is the day I learned Cribbage.
It took me a bit to understand his counting. Fifteen-two, Fifteen-four… He didn’t quite explain that the cards added up to fifteen and that it was two points, four points, etc. But after a couple of games I only needed my grandma’s momentary help to figure out what to pass to the kitty on more complex hands, the hands that just make you want to weep a little when you have to break it up and pass good stuff to your opponent.
I memorized all the little rules like the non dealer cuts the pack, the dealer pegs two for “his heels” if a jack turns up. The non dealer counts first. And don’t forget “one for nobs”. We never played to the strict rules that if someone missed points in their hand that the other person pegged them for their own, but aside from that there wasn’t any leniency just because I was seven. I knew it for sure because the day I really kicked grandpa’s butt and double skunked him. He tensed up and his lips tightened. He was a little mad, but then I could see the pride. Buried a little behind the furry, but it was there. “Damn it I taught you too well.” he said.
“Do you want to play another one grandpa?” I asked.
“No I think I’ll take a break.” he said. “Ginny,” he called to my grandma, “she double skunked me!”
Grandpa and I played cribbage all the time. He had a collection of cribbage boards but we only used one at his house, and there was an identical one at his cabin too. Just the plain cheap board. Not the one with one they make with colored stripes over the peg holes, just the plain wood color one. There was also one he made, we used that if we couldn’t find our regular board.