Friday, December 23, 2011

My fond Christmas gambling memories

My childhood memories of the holidays are rich with visions of gambling.  The muffled sound of 5 dice being shook in a felt-lined cup contrasted to the clickety clatter of those dice spilling onto the table.  Intermittent shouts of "Pay!"  My "Nuts about Wisconsin Dells" squirrel bank.  And, of course, Oma and Tante Karla's uncontrollable hoots and cackling laughter.

Everyone knew to bring a bag of money, silver coins, to my mother's house for the holidays.  We played two games: Six, Five, Four and a separate game called Three.  Both of these games have other names, but this is what we called them in my family.

We would sit around for hours playing these games, for dimes and nickels, and if the stakes were high - quarters, on Christmas.

The family consisted of The Germans - my mother and her parents, my Oma and Opa.  They are from Germany.  So is Oma's sister, Tante Karla, and her husband Onkel Jup, and their children Karen and Ricky who of course were my mother's cousins and closer to her in age.  I was the only child among the Germans and in that family I am Juni.

Then there are the Davi's - my dad's side of the family (technically my step-dad but we didn't use that word; I had my dad and my dad and when I referred to my dad my friends had to always ask, "Which one?") which consisted of his parents, Busha and Papa, his sister June and her family (she was Big June and I was Little June and by the time I was 12 I had passed her up in height so this has been a lifelong joke) and his brother and his family.  There were five cousins my age in that group.

Everyone liked to gamble.  Everyone.  The kids included.  I played these dice games with my family since I could throw down a cup of dice.  Everyone played and laughed.  Especially Oma and Tante Karla.  The simplest thing would set them off and they would howl with laughter.  Tear inducing laughter.

Oma isn't with us anymore, she passed away when I was pregnant with Wolfie, but I'm glad that my husband got to experience a few holidays where he witnessed the cackling German sisters.  Their laughter was infectious.  They would lose their breath.  The dice game would be on hold for 10 minutes while e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e would catch their breath and then either Oma or Tante Karla would ask, "What was so funny?" and the other would say, "I don't know..." and they'd start all over again.

Maybe liquor was involved.

This afternoon we had Christmas with Gabe's family and I introduced them all to my dice games.  I'm reviving the tradition.  Some of the original players from my family are not with us anymore and I can't remember the last time we played dice over at my mom's.  But today it felt like it was time to play again.  With a new crowd.  New energy.  New laughing.

And I watched Wolfie, so quick with numbers and learning rules and getting the nuances of playing these games.  I watched his face concentrate, or break out in excitement, or laugh and smack himself on the forehead when he rolled a three and he wasn't supposed to.  He must look like me when I was that age, playing those games.

Yeah.  Dice makes me remember Oma so I have no problem teaching my children gambling games because keeping it in the house, during the holidays, makes for fond memories.


  1. Cousin Julie from the Davi family... I love that you revived this tradtition. This is one of my favorite memories as a child.