Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Numbers and Letters Game

My sister called me today, with my mom on the other line, to direct me to a website they were both reading with tears in their eyes - a humorous look back in time at the 1977 J.C. Penney catalogue. I encourage you to check it out because it is quite amusing.

And it reminded me of a weird game my siblings and I played with the J.C. Penney catalogue back in our poor and covetous days. The Numbers and Letters Game. This is how it worked.

Materials needed:
One J.C. Penney catalogue
Eager and wanting children

The rules:
1. Every eager and wanting child who played got to choose one number and one letter of the alphabet before the catalogue was cracked open. The idea was to get the number and letter closest to 1 or A. There was no tricky mechanism by which we selected our numbers and letters - no rock/paper/scissors - just whoever called "1" or "A" the fastest.
2. The eager and wanting children then assembled on the couch, with the catalogue ceremoniously in the lap of whichever child was in the middle of the bunch. If there were only two players, they shared the privilege of holding the catalogue.
3. You then went through the catalogue, page by page. The items on the page that corresponded with YOUR number or YOUR letter became "yours."

We would play this for hours - decorating our future houses, creating brand new wardrobes, stuffing our imaginary toy boxes, and outfitting our new fishing boats and basement work rooms. We would go through every single page in the catalogue - from men's casual wear to women's intimates, to housewares and appliances to toys and camping gear. We became the kids on the page who were modeling party dresses and Garanimals, the men in the suits that became ours were our future husbands, and the women in the negligees that corresponded with our number or letter embarrassed us as if we were the ones half naked on the page. If our letter or number resulted in our "getting" something we thought was ugly, we would be disappointed, as if we believed when the game was over our fantasy shopping carts would be neatly packed and ready for us to take to our rooms.

I realize now that we played this game because we were wanting. I come from a good family that struggled to make ends meet. J.C. Penney was the fanciest store we knew, and being able to have whatever you wanted from the fine purveyor of household goods was the most decadent thing we could think of.

What a weird game that was.

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