From Where I Sit – Canasta Rules

This past weekend my sister Sherry, her fiancé Jim, Roy, and I went to Hinton to visit our youngest sister Gail, husband Todd, and daughter Hailey. The catching up was fun. The dinner out at the Chinese restaurant was good.

The best part, though, was sitting down to play canasta. Canasta is an old card game that we played as kids and young adults at home. Todd and Gail hadn’t played for years so teaching them was a great refresher for all of us. It was fun to see if we could remember the rules of the game and for the most part we did.

Where disagreement arose we turned to the Internet as final arbiter. Just how many cards should be dealt? Answer: 13, using three decks of cards including jokers if six people are playing.

Are jokers and deuces wild? Yes. Are eights worth 10 points or just five? Ten. And so on for most of the first match as the subtle nuances of the game came back to us bit by bit.

Of course, team play is always, always, always more fun if teams split down gender lines. It allows for more teasing, stereotyping, fierce competition, and howls of protest and accusation. Somehow men just seem to be fair game, easy targets, terrible losers. And ours were no exception.

Having teams based on married couples could potentially be very dangerous and divisive. It could get personal and people could be hurt. Of course, in our case the women beat the men.

After two of the three men crapped out to watch the Oilers-Flames hockey game it was poor old Todd and the three sisters left fighting it out for supremacy. The hours flew by, the beer cans piled up, and the bottle of Gretzky’s 99 red wine was drained. We played until each group had won a game. For a while it looked like we would need to play a grudge match Sunday morning before we left for home but we ran out of time.

Without knowing (or even caring about) the origin of the game we had played canasta for years. It can be the reason for bringing people together for a social night. In fact, Sherry has suggested a monthly canasta night. There’s another couple who would fit in perfectly. I can hear Terry’s laugh already.

If we put our hearts into this we can start a winter tradition and move from good intentions to action. Some Internet research shows this game peaked in the 1950s. These current days of uncertainty and cost containment may find more and more people sticking close to home finding low- or no-cost amusement.

I like the idea of returning to simpler times of homemade entertainment. There’s something old-fashioned, quaint, and warm about playing a low-tech game with living, breathing humans. There’s no need for software or downloads or hunkering down in a darkened basement to play against a computer. Who knows?canasta may enjoy a resurgence in popularity. That would please me, from where I sit.

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