There were two grandchildren at the lakehouse on Friday. To protect their identities, let’s call them Mac and Jason. As I will do when making a space for myself at a family party, especially one in which I do not know anyone very well, I brought out my secret weapon.
I call this “The Magnet Game,” and it has the distinct honor among games that even among the vast breadth of people with whom I share it, it has universal appeal. I have never gotten the impression that someone does not like this game. Below is a brief description of the goal of the game, to place magnets on the board without letting them touch each other.But, even the perfect game cannot become a hit on its own. This is where Mac and Jason come in. When I first arrived, the elder grandchild Mac was occupied building a cardboard gingerbread house from a kit. Jason, however, was begging people to play ping-pong with him. When I suggested a new game he could play, he was all over it.
Three years old, Jason Immediately fell in love with the magnets, but struggled with the rules of the game. Early on, he would deliberately make the magnets stick to each other and smile broadly when I would say ” Oops, you have to take those.” At the end of the game he proudly announced “I have the most magnets.”
“Yes,” I agreed. ” that means you lose.”
This did not trouble Jason, who rushed upstairs to inform his brother Mac and try to get him to join us. After Mac refused, Jason and I played another game, which Jason was again thrilled to lose. A second attempt to summon Mac met with more success. When Jason lost a third game, Mac took it upon himself to make sure he felt appropriately bad. I wondered if I should intervene, but there was no need. Jason loved losing this game as much as he did winning.
When Mac and Jason returned upstairs and I put the game away, I considered it a success. What I did not expect was that an hour later Jason would be asking to play the magnet game all over again. This continued throughout the day. We would play the magnet game for fifteen minutes until Jason got distracted from his string of delightful losses and ran off, then after a break he would want to start all over again.
When Jason asked me to play with him, I encouraged him to invite others. This had limited success at first, but soon we were not playing hidden in the basement, but upstairs at the prize position in front of the football game With Mac and Jason’s father and grandfather. After being told a dozen times that he had lost, Jason now viewed it as a part of the game. Whenever any two magnets would touch, he would jubilantly thrust his diminutive finger out at the player and shout “you lose!”
When Jason stood up to leave and said “I want to play another game,” his father and grandfather said, “you can play another game. We’re going to play another round of this one.”
After the event, Alice and I picked up a Christmas tree from her mother. I want to call attention to this Christmas tree because for a long time my mother has been very proud of her tiny Christmas tree. Let me show a picture of our Christmas tree. I do not have a picture of my mother’s Christmas tree, but rest assured ours is tinier.
As Jason would say with a broad smile on his tiny face, “you lose!”