The Read Local Committee is pleased to announce Debra Callaway has won our Faster, Higher, Stronger Essay Contest with her essay For the Love of Game. We love the way Deb addresses the different responses to competition within her own family.
Debra Callaway earned a masters degree in Art Education, and went on to teach English to teens in an alternative classroom for the next 30 years. Actually, the two subjects are not as disparate as some might think. She found many similarities. Her favorite part of teaching 9th grade English was creative writing. Now she's retired and paints all day with writing breaks. It's all good. She has only had a few essays, letters to the editor, and memoirs published, and does have a website for her paintings: www.feralbandicoot.com.
For the Love of Game
My husband was an only child who, growing up, entertained himself most of the time. He listened to music, put things together, took things apart, read. Today he still reads a LOT and his favorite games are Solitaire and Sudoku, both quiet and sedate games, played alone. He knows nothing of fierce and friendly competition.
I, on the other hand, am the third of four daughters – born within a year or so of each other and all with a dominant competitive gene. For my sisters and me, ANYTHING could be turned into a competition. We competed with who could jump the longest on our shared Pogo stick without falling off. (And wore out several pogo sticks!) We kept a perpetual Monopoly game going, sliding the board under the bed when not in use. The game never ended because we would bail each other out when one of us was in danger of bankruptcy. We even competed in our chores, like who could shell the most purple hull peas in an hour. Competing just made everything more fun.
After these two very different childhoods joined in marriage, Jim would watch with curiosity and some disdain as my siblings, parents, and I played Rook (the family card game). There was always a lot of whooping and hollering. He quickly deduced that Callaways were not humble winners and mastered a pretty good impersonation of the “Callaway Gloat” that he was happy to perform for friends. He had the gloat down, but he didn’t understand the motivation. Since we celebrated our wins so shamelessly, he thought that winning was what mattered to us. We did always try our best to win; I wouldn’t even throw a game of Candy Land to my 5-year-old niece.)
As adults, two of my sisters and I still love to play Scrabble (the real game with wooden tiles and a game board). We have different strengths but can all three play a pretty mean game of recreational Scrabble. Since my sisters both live in other states, I am always looking for someone to give me game. Jim is a smart man, an avid reader, with a rich vocabulary and good spelling skills. But he is not interested in the game and will only on rare occasions agree to play. It was during one of those rare games that I realized Jim will never “get” competition. I had a pretty good lead and was so happy that he was playing, when he suddenly tossed his tray of tiles onto the board and said, “I quit. You win.” I was crestfallen. Jim saw the disappointment on my face and was sincerely puzzled. “You should be happy”, he argued. “I said you won the game.”
I tried to explain that I was trying to win because that is how you PLAY the game. If he concedes, we no longer get to play. The fun is in giving your all and knowing that your opponent is doing the same. I try so hard because that is what’s challenging – seeing how high I can score, outplaying my opponent. If my competitor is not trying his best, then it’s no fun playing with him.
I’ve stopped begging Jim to play and have found several other worthy opponents. The good news is that the competitive gene must be truly dominant because our son, who also loves Scrabble, plays hard to win and can bluff, trash talk, and GLOAT with the best of them. That’s my boy!