Belly Laughs

I have a weakness for air hockey.

When I notice a table, I have to find a way to play. Every time I'm in a conversation about whether a startup office should be outfitted with ping pong tables, pool tables, dartboards, or Xboxes, I campaign for the oft-ignored air hockey table. I'm not sure what the specific attraction is, but I seem to get a lot of joy out of the speeding puck, satisfying sounds, and odd angles.

The discovery of an air hockey table in the basement during a recent trip to Michigan was just such an opportunity. My young nephews jumped at the chance to defeat their surprisingly competitive uncle. They didn't. Only right before I won did I realize that VICTORY AT ANY COST may not have been the fairest approach. They did have the benefit of youthful reflexes and home ice peculiarities, though (such as which replacement puck to choose when the previous one lands behind a bookcase).

On the last night of the trip, we found ourselves in a living room full of family and friends between the ages of 10 and 54. Someone suggested we play Catch Phrase and moments later, teams were formed, last minute beverages were procured, and the game began. The next hour was belly laughs and adrenaline. The performers seized the moment as expected, but the quieter ones shined in the spotlight, too. There was a different kind of closeness as we reluctantly parted.

There's something magical about games. Somewhere within the dice and pieces, scoreboards and disputes, awkward moments prove revealing. We show a different part of ourselves.

When we returned home to our normal routines this week, there was a sense that something was missing. On Sunday night, we rummaged through the closet and found the worn Scrabble box from many years ago. There was music on the stereo, playful teasing, and room for more people at the table.