I do not have memories of playing Scrabble Jr. But I do remember my mother playing regular Scrabble with me. We played it a lot. So often that I can viscerally remember the feeling of balancing the box as I retrieved it from the top kitchen shelf where we stored it and the smell of the yellowed pages of our paperback Scrabe dictionary. 

She didn’t let me win. 

Well, I mean, I’m sure she made choices sometimes that weren’t in her own very best game-winning interests, but I recall many times flipping the board or dissolving into tears as I was overpowered time and again by her word-building prowess. 

But she did teach me. “See what I did there?” she’d say after laying down a crafty set of tiles. And then she explained her tactic. Sometimes I was more receptive than others. “Do you want to show me your letters?” she sometimes asked. And if I did, she would help me find a place for a word on my rack. 

She beat me most of the time. But not every single time. Because I know (and so did she) that if I never won, I’d stop trying. And I didn’t. We played well into my teens and still, though it’s exceedingly rare,  if we can find an hour or so, we’ll pull out the board. And sometimes I beat her. (But I don’t think she is letting me win anymore.)

This happened today. For the first time.

The Who kept score, adding both in his head and on his fingers. I didn’t play my very best game and I helped him find words a few times, but he did most of it on his own. I can tell I will be having to try my hardest sooner rather than later.

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