When I was my children’s age, we played ATARI TV-games. It was amazing. We were astounded that we could have all the electronic games, previously only accessable at supermarkets, at 20 cents a game, right in our family room, on our own TV, at no cost at all. Well not no cost, I now realize. After all my Dad had to buy the ATARI set & we did spend our pocket-money on new games, but it was still quite amazing.
Nowadays we enjoy playstation. Off course there’s XBox and Wii as well, but we’re a playstation family. Grand Turrisimo, Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell. We love them all. Figuring out exactly what to do in order to move to the next level, discovering new ways to manipulate the characters or cars & the elation as you win for a moment before you struggle to figure out what to do on the next level and the next and the next.
The easy games, in which you jump from level to level without much effort aren’t that much fun. It must be hard. It must be challenging.
And the two player games are the best. The one’s in which we can share the struggle, figuring it out together & shouting exuberantly when the next clip comes up & you share the fun of making it past the mission.
What made me think of ‘the games people play’ was my kids.
On Wednesday we drove the 40 miles to nearby Addo in the Sunday’s River Valley. We had two intentions. We wanted to visit with some friends. I’ve told you of my friend Awie. His youngest son and daughter-in-law live in Addo. Their son was born on 4 January of this year. They called him Awie in honor of his grandfather. Being of reformed Christian faith they arranged his baptism. Awie’s widow came from Cape Town. We wanted to share in it, see her, spend some time with them, enjoy the joy, the moment, the friendship & remnants of wonderful remembrance. Also, we needed some feed for our horses and goats. It is drought in Nelson Mandela Bay. The fields adjacent to the little wooden house on the not so little hill are arid, providing little if any sustenance to these friends. Zuko went to Varsity with Colin who now farms in Addo. He grows Lucerne to feed his cows. He said we could come fetch some. Just 40 miles from us it is green. He has more than enough, he said. So we hooked a trailer behind our Landy and loaded it to the brim.
We had some coffee and conversation at Collin’s, then went for supper with my friend no more’s family.
It was almost midnight when we left Addo, the drive home somewhat slower as we pulled the heavy load of more than a ton to our grateful animal friends. It was past one as we hit home. The kids sleeping in the back of the Landy. We turned up the not so little hill & the Landy informed us that that would be as far as we go. Now the Landy isn’t the youngest vehicle anymore. She’s given us more than twelve years of good service and we hope she’ll give us twelve more, so we’re not too upset that she could not get the heavy load up the hill. It was a heavy load and the hill isn’t small. At half past one in the early hours of the morning, however, temperaments aren’t always inclined to see the reasonable side of life. Grudgingly we got out. The kids awakened by the commotion of a father somewhat upset with circumstances, but not influenced. Surprisingly they awaken to what they deem excitement. It is earlier than they’ve ever been up. There is a roaring engine and a struggle to mount a hill. Without hesitation they venture into the fields looking for rocks to place behind the trailer wheels, lest it run away, crashing into neighbors homesteads. Just the possibility of the Landy being dragged through trees and brush crashing into neighbors homes is already exciting enough. After the rocks are carefully placed behind the trailer wheels, they climb its sides and start dumping some of the bales, hoping that if the load is lighter the Landy might be stronger.
Amidst laughing chatter we drop a third of the load. The Landy roars & screams. An inch. Only an inch.
We drop some more Lucerne. No success. By now it is almost two-thirty. I have to be at work at eight. We decide to call it a day. We’ll leave the Landy, the trailer, the feed at the foot of the hill, catch some shut-eye & sort the mess when the sun is out. The children laugh and talk as we walk up the hill. Sophia declares that she’s done with sleep, the excitement & the work & the walking has filled her with energy.
The next morning, or rather later that morning, we unload the rest of the lucern from the trailer & the Landy easily pulls the empty trailer to the top. We’ll get Zuko’s Dad’s pick up later in the day & bring the feed home in smaller loads.
It is late afternoon when Zuko’s Dad comes over. I’m tired. I don’t feel like battling with getting the feed to the top of this hill. I’m irritated. But the feed must get into the shed. If it rains it will be ruined.
With effort I load bale after bale. The kids are there. They’re helping. I stand back for a moment. And suddenly I see it. This isn’t effort for them. It is fun. It is exciting. It is an amazing experience. They giggle. They talk. They laugh & joke. We take load after load up the hill. The fun doesn’t dissipate. It grows. Becomes. More.
And they teach me.
As they often do.
Attitude is important.
We should not take ourselves so seriously.
I shouldn’t take myself so seriously.
It isn’t serious.
Not at all.
It is a game.
A very fun game.
Filled with wonderful experiences.
Like a playstation game.
Level after level.
And the fun – the fun is hidden in not being able to pull a trailer full of feed to the top of a hill.
It is hidden in loading and unloading bales and talking and laughing along the way.
The fun is hidden in seeking solutions and ‘completing the level’. The elation of tasting a moment’s victory before plunging yourself into the next challenge. The fun is hidden in persevering. In keeping at it until you solve it and get the small reward. Even in the continuous plunging back into the game.
The desperate moments as we try to accomplish.
The creative thinking as we attempt the building of a life.
The two-player, three-player, four-player games.
I’ll remember this day and night and late afternoon.
I awaken with a bit more expectation now.
This is fun.
It doesn’t matter so much that I try and try and try again.
It doesn’t matter so much that I don’t get it right the first time.
It is the living that matters.
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