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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The shell game

With summer almost upon us, I find myself thinking yet again about the crew that raised us -- my parents and their siblings. On those annual two-week vacations at the Jersey Shore, there was no shortage of cheap ways to keep ourselves entertained. I remember the year we decided to move our vacation up by a couple of weeks from our usual last-two-weeks-in-July. When we got to Seaside Park or Ortley Beach or wherever it was, the water was too cold for the prolonged swim sessions we enjoyed.

As we sat on our beach blankets whiling away the hours, a game was devised that made the most of our situation. Each person was assigned two shells or bits of shells. Each of us was instructed to place secretly one, two or no shells in our clenched fist and place it on the blanket. We would then go around, and each player would enter a guess as to how many shells, in total, would appear when we opened our hands in unison. As I recall, the object of the game was not to get the actual total, because the person closest to the correct number had to plunge himself or herself into the chilly water over his or her head. As the guesses went around in the circle, you couldn't choose the same number as anyone else, and we took turns guessing first.

I can't remember whether the oceangoing losers were then out of the game, or whether they returned to the circle for further play (after the ridicule died down, of course). I think the idea was that once you were in the water, you were out of the game, and the rest of the crew kept playing until only one of us remained dry. I can just picture the smirk on the face of the winner. Maybe it was Aunt Eleanor or Uncle Andy, although the two of them were such good sports that they might join the final member of the Polar Bear Club, in a show of solidarity.

But there you have it. Maybe 12 or 15 of us, kids and grownups, howling for an hour over the simplest of pastimes. We would do well to get back to that kind of fun this summer.

Comments (3)

I found myself last night flush with birthday cash and the most thoughtful gift from my step-brother and his wife. A small gas barbeque suitable for camping and/or tailgating. I got home, logged on to REI.com, and have a tent and sleeping bag on the way. The Summer of George, this won't be.

These are the games that kids (and adults) come up with when they have nothing else to do. Boredom is a beautiful thing. My favorite summer memories involve riding bikes around the neighborhood, no destination in mind, no need to get anywhere.

It's worth reminding our kids (and ourselves) just how much fun boredom can be.

And I liked just cut up in the water.
Especcilaly jump wrom the board, floating on the water surface.

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