I am a great believer in the value of games.
Scrabble and Solitaire saved my relationship with my mother.
I know, reader, what you’d like me to say—that my mother and I had an intense, Oprah-eque conversation that solved all of our problems.
Instead, we played cards. Long, complicated games of Solitaire that required an entire kitchen table to unfurl. After we grew luckier and more adept at coaxing the deck back into order, we shifted to Scrabble, a game of greater skill and subtlety. We used the Official Scrabble Dictionary for ‘challenges.’ We memorized all of the u-less q words.
When we tried to have Serious Discussions instead of playing Scrabble or cards, our conversations would grow more heated, far nastier than any debate over the existence of a word. I would blame my mother for overprotecting me as a child, she would blame me for wasting the expensive opportunities I had been given. Scrabble was safe, with clear rules, unlike our relationship.
Too many girls do not play Scrabble with their mothers. They converse with their mother while shopping for clothes, or think that somehow if they can find the answer to why they fight with the woman who loves them the most, they will be released from all emotional pain.
Perhaps this is why men tend to have a better relationship with their fathers—men can fish with them in silence, or better yet, play sports. Sports drains you of the physical as well as mental and emotional energy to remember what your parents did wrong, what you did wrong.
After I begin working with students, I developed a fascination with college basketball—while researching so many programs for aspiring athletes, I began to enjoy reading about kids from schools with stories that seemed so similar to my own experience—campus, cafeteria, classes—and so different—50 hours a week of practice, recruiting scandals, cash in suitcases. I loved the nail-biting endings to NCAA tournament games in the same way I loved to read the last pages of a mystery or adventure story.
My love of college basketball has brought me closer to my father than any attempt to probe my psyche with him. He’s invited me to participate in the NCAA tournament of his work friends (almost entirely older and male) two years running. When told that one of the other women in the pool was asked to participate “to make sure none of us guys come in last,” of course I was determined to win. And I did, last year. And this year as well.
Truthfully, winning his NCAA office pool two years in a roll has made my father respect me more than all of my writing awards, more than my master’s degree from Harvard.
So thank you NCAA for giving me the ability to sit side-by-side my father in peace, quiet, and love, watching a bunch of guys half-kill one another over a ball.
I made these cookies to thank the man who has the thankless job of tabulating all of the scores for the tournament pool. I adapted this recipe slightly from Anna's recipe at Cookie Madness. I can’t promise that they will help you win a scholarship from a Division I school. But sharing them with someone could save you a fight or two. They’re so moist and chewy it’s hard to speak very loudly as you wolf them down.
Better-than-therapy Oatmeal Double Raisin Cookies
-Makes 20-25 cookies-
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces of unsalted butter
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
1/2 cup organic raw sugar (I used Florida's Crystals)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup dark-colored raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1. 'Plump' the raisins. I usually do this by boiling about a half cup of water, turning off the heat, then soaking the raisins in the warm water for about 10-20 minutes, depending on the dryness of the fruit. I didn't use flavored raisins for the recipe, but you can also use orange or other juices to 'plump' them. Don't boil them in the water, otherwise you'll get raisin jam rather than fat raisins.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, and cinnamon together.
2. Cream the butter and both sugars, add the egg and vanilla. Slowly fold in the flour mixture, followed by the oats, slowly.
3. Fold in the raisins. Make sure the raisins are well-drained before incorporating them in the dough.
4. Chill dough for at least an hour. I chilled my dough overnight.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball or slightly smaller. Bake 12-15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for approximately 5 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack or a cool plate. The cookies will be chewy, so cool for at least an hour to avoid them crumbling.