FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Current Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contributors FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//About FRESH YARN FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Past Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Submit FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Links FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Email List FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contact


The Game of Life
By Kathleen Dennehy

As Molly and Olivia embarked on their tiny plastic lives, blithely hitting every milestone that I've somehow missed, Hannah was eager to graduate as she nervously watched her younger sisters advance towards Millionaire's Row. She was panicky about being left behind and asked me if her stint in college would give her any kind of advantage in her fake life. As a proud graduate of NYU with a very expensive degree in Experimental Theater, I worried that Hannah would graduate with honors only to land on a square that made her a waitress in an East Village Turkish diner for five years until she'd get fired for asking to get the day off for Thanksgiving.

I am happy to report that Milton Bradley has the presence of mind to not scare little kids as they pretend to be grown ups. Thankfully, there are no squares condemning children to a series of bread and butter, soul-crushing minimum wage jobs that have no dignity, nor cover the exorbitant rent on your dark, noisy, bug-ridden studio. No one lands on squares that lead you into long, twisted relationships with bisexual men who end up leaving you for your best female friend. No squares have you divorced by thirty-four, where you lose your dog in a custody battle, then condemn you to jump into the great mirthless whirlpool of internet dating, which only makes you feel more single than ever at 36, in an illegal sublet with a deaf cat and no savings to speak of. No, the board game of Life is blessedly trauma-free.

In about eight inches of colorful shiny cardboard, Molly had a great career as a professional athlete, was married, had two cars and owned a series of workout clubs, bringing her in an additional $20,000 bucks every four squares. Then she goes and has twins, while on a world vacation with her little blue peg of a husband. I was jealous of a seven-year-olds' toy life. When I automatically placed her tiny blue husband in the driver's seat of her car, she asked me why she had to be a passenger in the car she earned with her own pink and yellow money. "How come we don't have two cars? Like Mommy has the Suburban and Daddy has the red car we can't eat in?" I respected her wishes, mindful that the days of one-car families went out with my childhood. In fact, in Molly's game family, the little blue dad's car followed her car, and he had the twins in the back.

I was ashamed of my automatic regression to how we played as little girls, where it wasn't so much about careers as it was about landing the big, rich doctor and having lots of babies, and you sat shotgun, and considered yourself lucky at that. My nieces are blissfully ignorant of our not-so-distant roles as sweet seconds in command. They are going to be their own safe harbors.

Ever safe and practical Hannah became an accountant. I winced, not wanting that for my gorgeous, creative, first niece, but then she collected a tithe off every bank transaction we completed. Yeah, she wasn't a computer programmer, or a star athlete, but she quickly and quietly amassed more fake money than I have real. Olivia wanted to change her career since she really didn't know what a computer programmer was, and I was no help explaining it to her. She got to be sheriff and that suited her just fine.

Molly was the It girl of the Game of Life, fast becoming an international diplomat and the editrix of Vogue, but she eventually hit a rough patch. What seven-year-old that doesn't live in a plastic bubble thinks she needs insurance? She had a major board game certified car accident and lost everything. Her china blue, saucer-sized eyes widened as I gently pulled her husband and kids from the extra car and extracted a bunch of bills from her stacks of bank. She gulped and looked around at all of us, and we held our breath, worried that she might lose it and ruin the game.

She shook off the blow, and slowly, deliberately shrugged. "Well," she said philosophically, "That's life." We all exhaled and nodded ruefully. There but for the grace of God goes our brightly colored game piece. Chin up, Molly moved on, only to land on a square where she won a MacArthur genius grant for her work with ecologically sound Play-Doh.

We all ended up on Millionaire's row, in our little McMansions with lovely painted cardboard gardens. Everyone was successful in this game of Life.

My brother-in-law called from the hospital. My sister had a baby, another girl. It felt as real as if it was another square that one of us had landed on. I wiped a tear away, thinking of my baby sister with four stunning, smart, able and wonderful daughters, and the real, huge and scary world she was beholden to shepherd them through. I sighed and smiled. "Anyone want to play again?" We collected the money and the little colored pegs and started again, from scratch.

PAGE 1 2

-friendly version for easy reading
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission

home///current essays///contributors///about fresh yarn///archives///
submit///links///email list///site map///contact
© 2004-2005