After a year largely spent indoors many of us are making plans for the summer and rediscovering the things we’ve been unable to engage with – it’s what our Creating Happy Memories campaign is all about. However, during this time, we’ve also learnt a lot about how to simplify our lives and take pleasure in the small things. Here, dad, Sam explains how, even though he’s looking forward to getting out and about, his happy place is closer to home.
I love our kitchen table.
The 1950s functional dining table was given to me by my aunt when my now 8-year-old son was a newborn but, to be clear, it’s less of an heirloom than a skip survivor.
The frame is no longer properly connected, it’s crisscrossed by scratches and discoloured in places where I’ve removed old food stains with a toothbrush and forgotten to oil it afterwards.
The table’s worn and shabby appearance, however, is somewhat misleading as it’s actually a treasured and magical item; It’s the place my children and I play board games each Saturday, and sometimes during the week as well if homework and work work allow.
This table has been everything from a battle arena for dragon combatants to a spaceport, to a rural French village, and everything else in between.
Sitting at the table, for me, is a deeply calming experience.
I’m transported back to my own childhood, where my father would sit with me and teach me chess, Risk or Hotel (still a family favourite now).
I wasn’t as sporty as my siblings, and this was one area where I got to spend some time truly engaging with my incredibly competitive father.
Around the age of eight, I realised he was letting me win. That stopped soon after, but it took me until I was 10 to realise that he is also an unapologetic cheat.
You learn a lot about people you play board games with.
I’ve learnt that my eldest, at eight, is kind-hearted and generous but an absolute stickler for the rules and also that my five-year-old is clever and creative, and loves any game that allows him to exercise choice and ingenuity.
Worryingly I’ve also discovered that my wife is an aggressive tyrant who will crush you beneath her heel in short order if you dare to cross her!
Mostly, however, I’ve learnt that my children’s enjoyment is more important to me than my own.
I like the fact that board games represent the absolute baseline of what’s needed for family and friends to come together and enjoy each other’s company.
No tv screens, consoles or tablets, no million-dollar movie budgets, no booze; nothing else is required.
When you strip away the flavours and themes of the games it’s about the people you’re playing with. I’m lucky that my family are my favourite people to enter a dungeon with.
“the worries of the modern world leave me and it’s no longer about the never-ending to-do list of work and home”
While I’m sitting with them at our table in the sunshine the worries of the modern world leave me and it’s no longer about the never-ending to-do list of work and home, the lockdown weight I’ve gained or the terrifying throb of the global news on the radio.
Instead, we’re engaging with something compact, understandable and manageable… something that plays by the rules, even if it is a ten-headed dragon, an alien robot or a comic supervillain.
Now that lockdown is easing, we’ve even seen these sessions come full circle, with my dad occasionally joining us at the table for a card game we’ve all become very fond of.
After a year of isolation, it’s good to be close to him, but not too close… Not close enough for him to see the cards.
He still cheats.
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