Every few days I get the text. “Hey Ma, wanna play Bananagrams after dinner?”
Oh yeah, let’s do it.
For my daughter, a joint game of Bananagrams via computer offers a much-needed break from graduate school projects as well as a chance to schmooze, to catch up, to vent. For me, it’s a chance to lay eyes on the sweet face of my youngest, living far away, and who because of health issues has been holed up in fairly intense isolation, her only physical warmth a sweet, rather pushy orange tabby. And for both of us, it’s a normalizing moment of connection and, nerds that we are, a congenial opportunity to bond over our love of words.
So she sends me a link to her Zoom room, and there we are, together yet apart on our respective computers at our respective dining room tables. We chat and joke amiably as we each unpack our individual canvas bananas and take out the requisite 21 letter tiles, face down. The conversation is easy, unforced, like we used to have long ago in the car together heading to lessons, appointments, rehearsals. It’s lovely to have that connection more than the once a week or so we talked by phone pre-COVID-19.
But then: “ready, set, split.” Things get busy as we form our tiles into meandering grids of words, combining, disassembling, recombining, punctuated by shouts of “peel” and “dump.” It’s a rush — we’re both pretty competitive. But we’re also supportively casual, querying each other about the validity of a word or a spelling. (“Is ‘fane’ a word? I’ll look it up.”) And we get great pleasure in sharing our “best words” at the end of each game — who had the longest, most inventive use of the gnarly Q, X, and Z.
Quite often, her cat enters the fray, jumping on the table, backing butt-first into the computer screen. My husband sometimes joins for a hand, and once we also networked our older daughter in California into a messy, somewhat silly game that was delightfully more gabfest than competition.
But mostly, it’s just the two of us, bridging the distance as we quietly make the words dance. Excuse me, I think I just got a text…
Karen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.