She spies the box on the top of the shelf in “her” room (I call it the “Spare Oom,” kindred Narnians):

“What’s that game, Franna?”

“Oh, that’s Yahtzee. I used to play it all the time when I was growing up.”

“How do you play?”

Sounds like an invitation to me.

I reach past Spy Alley, Catchphrase, Trivial Pursuit, the chess set, and Twister (that game floored her. Really. Not just trying to be punny).

Dear old Yahtzee.

The dice rattle inside the box…and I remember…

Whole afternoons elapsing on the worn living room rug, sunlight waning behind the lace curtains, sometimes distant thunder beyond the rain-slapped windows, none of it mattering in the wide circle of lamplight where my sister and I hunched over the scorecards. The exultant cry or groan of despair, depending on whose throw landed all five dice on the same number. Yahtzee!

Evenings in my aunt’s spotless, light-dimmed, vanilla-scented den, legs criss-crossed, drinking Dr. Pepper in glasses with curiously-cylindrical ice cubes clinking (ice-makers were uncommon, then). The lovingly-fierce competition between my young aunt and uncle, their laughter, their encouragement: Good choice, Hon. Sometimes you just have to take it on Chance

The look of perplexity on kids’ faces at math camp when I bought out the box after a lesson on probability; their brows furrowing as they learned the terminology: three of a kind, four of a kind, full house, small straight, large straight; their faces soon glowing with new zeal; shouts of YESSSS! accompanying fist punches in the air…

Hours at the kitchen table, the warmth of butter-yellow walls, my mother blowing on the dice, sending my sister and me into giggles; we start blowing on our dice, too. Come on, sixes, come on, sixes…years later, as I leave the house for a date: my mother at the kitchen table with a friend from across the street, whose story I never fully knew, only that she’d suffered a mental breakdown and had been taken in by relatives. Her hands shake as she lights one of my mom’s Salems, blue eyes wide and a little too bright, a nervous smile flickering across her face as the dice roll in her favor. Swirls of white smoke heavy in the air, floating after me on the sound of my mother’s cackling laughter, hilarious in itself, uniquely uninhibited, ever-gleeful…

So much depends on the rolling of the dice, on the way you choose to take what comes.

I lay out the pencils and scorecards, scoop up the dice, place them in my granddaughter’s little cupped hands.

“All right, Baby. Let me show you how to play.”


The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 25, I am writing around a word beginning with letter y. 

22 thoughts on “Yahtzee

  1. Fran,
    You’re speaking my language! I love this piece. Beautiful memories, descriptively written! What I love most about our game is that I haven’t thrown away the used score cards, so years of Yahtzee in precious handwritings of my children are preserved in that box. Save the cards for your granddaughter so that one day she can show her own granddaughter the ropes and remember learning!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fran, what a wonderful slice, and what a wonderful opportunity you have to make memories with your granddaughter. The way you convey your memories is so clear and effective; like many of your readers, I’m sure, I feel like I was there with you and your sister.

    Your “Hours at the kitchen table” paragraph had me rereading it, soaking up the layers of meaning. The roll of the dice has such an impact on all of us. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This brings back a lot of memories. So many familiar phrases and actions: blowing on the dice, c’mon sixes, take it on chance. My wife’s granddad swore that he had invented the game before the Yahtzee people stole it. He did have some artifacts of a game he called Yachts. My wife used to play it in the infirmary with campers who got sick. It definitely helped them through the homesick-for-mom feeling you get at camp when you’re sick
    I loved the scene at the table with the neighbor with the too bright eyes. The mystery of that part and the cackling laugh were very powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe your wife’s granddad! Why should he not have thought of his Yachts game before Milton Bradley stole it? Things like this happen every day; ideas mysteriously land on many people at the same time. Yahtzee is such a lively, competitive game – and really simple. The neighbor was somewhat of a fragile person and long gone, now; those moments around the game were, I think, a welcome escape from I’m not sure what. Many thanks for these thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved walking through the years in this post; it reads like movie scenes captured to show the passage of time to get us to the next plot point, your family members always central in each vignette. (Or a sentimental commercial for Yahtzee!) I hope you share these memories with Scout someday, when she is old enough to truly picture the people, the emotions, the wafting smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One thing that troubles me a bit about this piece is the math camp part from my adult life being embedded there in my childhood memories. They’re not sequential – it should have come last but I wanted the one with my mother and the smoke to come last. Anyway – memories swirl like that, not necessarily in an ordered pattern. I do hope Scout will cherish these stories someday. Many thanks, Chris.


  5. The imagery in this piece allows me to jump right in and experience the fondness of these memories as you had. What a beautiful recollection of a light-hearted game bringing so much joy to the brave participants. Yahtzee to me means game night with my husband. He is a dice-blower too and always equates my lack of Yahtzee rolls to my lack of blowing on the dice. May this game bring many new memories of you and your granddaughter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am chuckling at the lack of dice-blowing being blamed for bad Yahtzee rolls…we kind of believed that, too. It’s an addictive little game – many warm moments surround it. Thanks so much for your words.


  6. Yes, thank you again for another memorable trip back down the years of your life and all the times you played yahtzee and the fun you had, ready now to impart that to your granddaughter. I am sure it will bring her many happy memories in the future! My own memories of how to play are really dim as I think we only played once or twice at a friend’s house, but I get the gist of what you are saying with your mother blowing on the dice and your time at math camp. Also the description of the storm and then your aunt’s house, so vivid. Thanks for the trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautifully written as always–all those memories, so vivid: the fading carpet, the sunlight, the giggles, the “come on sixes,” the Salems, the blue eyes a little too bright. I’d forgotten all about Yahtzee. We played a gazillion games when the kids were small and we vacationed by tent camping around the country. Your slice brought back memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Here I am, reading about you and your granddaughter playing Yahtzee – it begins so carefree, as a journey of memories of your childhood spent playing this game, the competitive family games, the utter astonishment of your math students. And then, I get to the juxtaposition you’ve snuck in there right after the paragraph where you grant us an image via peripheral vision – of your mom and her friends, and the lives they lead that are just beyond our childhood ability to understand. And then you hit us with “So much depends on the rolling of the dice, on the way you choose to take what comes.” Yes. SO much behind that line. And as heavy as it is there…it leads and lightens us right back to the Franna scene. Just…gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for riding along the rails of my memory, Lainie…when “Yahtzee” came to mind, so did those images; they pulled much harder than the game itself. Such that for a moment, I was there on the old rug; I saw those rounded ice cubes floating in the fragrant Dr. Pepper (a unique drink at the time, with the spicy flavor). Then all day yesterday my mask smelled of vanilla just like my aunt’s candles – which has never happened, and I have no idea why, other than the memory tangibly clinging. I just enjoyed breathing it. Yes – that one line about the rolling has a lot, so much weight – thank you for feeling it, and for these lovely words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, you definitely achieved your goal of sharing those images. They came through crisp and clear. Having that vanilla smell come as a sign is an interesting phenomenon, kind of like when you encounter a new word and start seeing it everywhere…

        Liked by 1 person

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