Thursday, July 12, 2007
Croquet - A family affair
A few weeks ago, when I was visiting my Aunt, I asked about those old super 8 films she took of us long ago, those clips of our youth, of long forgotten erstwhile times that were forever to remain in the recesses of our minds. She showed them to me, and I asked if I could put them on a DVD. She assented. I transferred the super 8 films onto a DVD using music of the era since super 8 films had no sound. I invited the family over to view the DVD. As the DVD flickered on my 62 inch screen, we all began to shout out the names of the people we had forgotten long ago.
What captured our imagination most, however, was seeing us in the early 70s playing croquet. As children, we loved that game. When we visited my Aunt, she always had that game of croquet ready for us to play.
A week later, it was the 4th of July. It was time for a family get-together. Gene, my brother, rolled up to the house with a newly purchased croquet set – obviously the video had an impact on him. Gene set it up on the lawn as the children looked at us with strange wonderment. Grown adults were setting up a game that appeared to be made for children. What was all this strange equipment? To a generation brought up on Sega and Nintendo, this must truly have appeared strange; two sticks, hoops and several mallets.
Gene, my brother, began to explain the rules which we had all but forgotten.
Croquet is a game that is played outdoors on the lawn. There are two stakes placed on each side of the lawn with hoops strategically placed around the perimeter. Each player takes his turn hitting his or her ball with a mallet. If the ball goes through a hoop, you are allowed to hit the ball again. The object is to hit the ball and get your ball through all the hoops reaching the stake at the other end until finally you get back where you began. You then are deemed to be poisoned. Once you are poisoned you can hit your other opponents’ balls removing them from the game. There are other rules, but that should give you a basic understanding.
Time to play. I was first. I aimed the mallet, hit the stake and “swoosh”, the ball went through the first two hoops. Rules say, I get two more hits. I was on a roll. I was in my element. I hit the ball through the next hoop, and I still had two more hits since each hoop allows me another hit but with the next two hits, I had failed to get through the next hoop. But that was okay. I was ahead of the game. I just had to wait my turn. I felt good….
My good fortune, however, was not to last. As each turn came my way, I failed to get the ball through that next hoop. Each time I hit the ball, it would swerve off the grass, in the gutter, near another hoop sixteen yards away, but it never seemed to go through the hoop I wanted. Everyone was passing me by including my eight year old niece. There was only one option – I would cheat. When no one was looking, I would kick the ball a few inches in front of the hoop. By that time, however, everyone was eight hoops ahead of me. I was alone in my own little world.
It did not take me long to realize this was internecine warfare. Age did not matter. We were all once again 16. It was sibling against sibling. Any modicum of filial affection that existed between dad and son or dad and daughter vanished in those few moments of intense competition. My brother Andy, the Christian missionary, forgot those Christian mores to which he adhered as he and our other brother Gene quibbled over where Andy’s ball had landed. We were once again playing the way we played when we were in grammar school. Croquet brought out that inner beast within us.
Catherina was the first to become poisoned; her dad, Gene was the second. When Gene became poisioned, shouts of excitement could be heard throughout the neighboorhood. Gene, voluble as always, gloated as he knocked each person out of the game. The game came down to Gene and his daughter. Gene bellowed, “How do you do this?” hoping that this rhetorical question would somehow expiate the crime of Gene’s attempt to poison his only daughter and thereby remove her from the game. It didn’t matter that his daughter was only eight, or that she was even a girl; this was life and death. But, Gene, the once proud dad, missed the ball. It was now Catherina’s turn. Catherina aimed her ball at her dad, and with all the bravery and fortitude of a neophyte, with one swoop knocked her dad out of the game. Catherina, an 8 year old, had beaten the entire Dias clan with that final blow to her dad.
There is still justice in the world