[Unpublished, written February 1995]
Long winter evenings have always challenged families; the Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware recently hosted an afternoon of "19th century winter pastimes…once-popular parlor games challenging the mind or the memory." For some readers, early March will bring more snowstorms, and a list of old parlor games sounds appealing.
But who needs outmoded forms of entertainment, when you can keep jolly the Wiedro way? "The Wiedros" became our family alias when daughter Megan, attempting to enter the surname "Weirdo" on a computer questionaire at Disneyworld, logged something like "Wiedr O" instead. On our last Wiedro outing we visited museums in Delaware’s Brandywine Valley, then spent an evening at a farmhouse bed-and-breakfast, free from all electronic diversions. Here are the pastimes that helped pass our time—some old familiars, some invented on the spot. The first is a guiding principle:
1. Drive it into the ground. Don’t let a promising topic go until it’s exhausted. For example, when I said that we were going to an art museum to see the Pre-Raphaelites, Megan said, "See the what? The Rat-Free Acolytes?" This prompted a lengthy Wiedro discussion on the appeal of the term "Rat-Free." We wondered why it isn’t used more often, since products like "Rat-Free Pancake Syrup," "Rat-Free Lipstick," and "Rat-Free Overalls" would have a ready consumer base, and in most cases the assertion would be true. The point is to:
2. Make Megan laugh. This game not available in all families. Megan, almost 18, is the Wiedro who laughs with abandon, laughs to the point of helplessness. The winner is the one who delivers the final line, causing Megan to put her head down on the table and gasp for breath.
3. Invent a Superhero. David (15) succeeded at this with a superhero he invented while losing a snowball fight: Lie-Down Man. Lie-Down Man draws his strength from carpeting, or whatever is underfoot. To demonstrate, David slowly crumples and folds, shouting all the way down, "I can feel my strength increasing! Now I can take over the world!" When he’s lying flat on his back, he proclaims in superhero tones, "Nothing can stop me now!"
4. What if? Stephen (13) excels here. He came up with these: What if everything you looked at fell over? What if everyone you met was shouting "How could you!" and trying to punch you in the face? What if every time you passed a tree, it tried to strike up a conversation? What if you passed a car with a sign reading "I love you, Megan Mathewes-Green," and nobody in the car was anyone you’d ever seen before? What if you came home and your room was completely covered with cats?
Megan produced this: What if, every day when you looked in the mirror, you looked a little more like Tim Allen?
5. Not a TV. If you could have anything to entertain us this evening, the size of a TV or smaller, but not a TV, what would it be? Our list: A big block of chocolate, a pile of $100 bills, an optometrist (?), a little thing to make Daddy disappear, a kitten, a baby, a kitten on a baby, a very small funny person.
6. Instant Expert. "It" must give a convincing two-minute speech, immediately, on whatever topic is assigned. I asked Stephen to explain how the sole of a tennis shoe is attached to the canvas; by times-up he had workers in Madrid playing jazz to stretch Jello and make it stronger, though it sometimes gets away from them, and "Did you ever hear about the Drastic Sole Devouration of Madrid?"
7. Silly Sentences. Two people hold a conversation, each having been given a bizarre sentence they must work in so casually that the other person doesn’t notice. This means Megan is trying to steer the discussion toward "Oranges would last longer if they made them out of styrofoam," while David is trying to get to "Penguins have been known to hijack airplanes."
8. He Said - She Said. Fill in the blank, turn back the top of the paper, and pass it on to the next person: "[Male name] met [female name] at [place]. He said to her, ‘[anything]’. She said to him, ‘[anything].’ The result was [anything]. And the world said, ‘[anything].’" For example, "Sheriff Preckleblatt of the Smurtertown State County Board Police Group met that lady from the Snapple commercials right behind the washing machine in our basement. He said to her, ‘Hey, I wanted this blueberry blintz Rat-Free!’ She said to him, ‘That Hee-Haw show keeps me in stitches.’ The result was a big sale at Irma’s Bait, Tackle, and Icon shop, and the world said, ‘That movie really wasn’t worth $7.00.’"
One winter passes another in this way, and before we know it too many have whirled away. We are left with this, a photo of Megan beaming, and she’s written on the back: "To you, David. This picture made me think of you, ‘cause you make me smile like this. Please keep this picture forever and don’t lose it, so that one day when we’re not together, you can see me and know that we’re still best buds. Luv, Megan."
[Unpublished, written February 1995]