I'm becoming a card shark. If by card shark you envision a cheat or a swindler, and an all-around parasite, then I mean the other more flattering definition that refers to one who is skilled at card playing. It began when I suggested to Micah we play Phase 10 one evening after dinner. From there we began adding a few hands over his lunch breaks. Then I branched out and challenged friends to a game after the last bite of stew had been consumed and the dinner plates cleared from the dining table. I even carried the deck with me in a muslin bag next to the six pack of beer, in case the opportunity for a game presented itself while hanging out at a friend's house. Yesterday, Micah and I moved on to Shanghai Rummy. He won the first round but I'm hopeful for the second. He only has a five point lead.
I come from a line of card playing folk. My mom's family, farmers in South Dakota, love to play Pitch. As I kid I remember my aunts, uncles, and cousins all gathered around my grandparents' kitchen table. They played for hours, screaming, laughing, and shootin' the shit. Some time in junior high I was invited to join the table. I said, "No thanks," in favor of some much needed introvert time. And that is how it remained. I was the cousin, the niece, the granddaughter, who didn't know how to play Pitch and never joined the table. I assumed that's who I'd remain: the person who always sits out.
And I did, for the next twenty-something years.
Today, the shoe box full of playing cards that rarely saw the light of day has been organized (we traded out the really beautiful deck we picked up from our trip to the Black Hills containing interesting factoids for a deck that can actually be shuffled). I still don't know how to play Pitch but I've added other games to my repertoire. It doesn't seem like much, my newfound passion for card playing, but it reminds me there's always room to grow. "To grow is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often," said John Henry Newman. I'm not looking for perfection, just some fun, a winning hand, and the knowledge that who I was yesterday doesn't have to be who I am today.
I heard an interview on Here and Now with Ryan Speedo Green, an African American opera singer who performs at the Metropolitan Opera. Ryan grew up in poverty, in a home full of bullet holes, and endured a violent childhood. He also spent time in a juvenile detention center because of his violent temper. But then Ryan discovered he could sing. "And so when I left the Met that night, I told Mr. Brown outside of the Met, you know, I'm going to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. I told him this, and he looked at me and he said, OK, OK, OK, Speedo, maybe one day when you can learn to read music, when you can get onstage and remember your lines, when you can sing in a foreign language, when you can go to college, when you could, you know, sing in a young artist program and actually sing some professional roles, maybe someday you'll be able to audition for the Met. And then kind of in my mind, I think, I took it all down and made a list. And nine years later, I sang at the Met." To grow is to change, in small and significant ways. Yesterday we may have been the person who always sits out or hangs back or believes he doesn't have what it takes to pursue his dreams. But today is different because there's always room to grow.