Two of my sisters sat on the davenport with piles of Mom’s favorite magazines on their laps. I sat on the floor next to them going through a mound of Dell comic books. They had been read to me so often, I nearly knew them by heart. Familiarity made them all the dearer.
Outside the living room window was a boring winter Saturday afternoon. Snow hadn’t fallen for over a week and the temperatures were frigid. None of us wanted to go out to play.
This year at school I had learned how to read. Despite all the praise I’d received, I was unhappy. Reading was harder than listening. I missed having my sisters read to me. Holding out one of the best comic books, I appealed to my sister, “Mary, please read this to me!”
Mary lowered the Woman’s Day magazine and said, “No. You know how to read. Read it yourself.”
I looked over at my sister, Betty, who was reading a Red Book Magazine. She didn’t bother to look up. I suspected that she was purposely ignoring me.
Sighing, I began to page through a Uncle Scrooge comic book. I told myself it was just to enjoy the interesting pictures. Despite trying to ignore the word bubbles, I soon found myself following the storyline by reading. Realizing what was happening, I felt angry, as if I had been tricked!
Mary broke into my sulk. She said, “I don’t feel like reading any more. Aunt Tressie sent us a deck of Old Maid cards for Christmas. Let’s get them out and play a game.”
I had never played with cards before, so Mary and Betty had to keep explaining it to me. Mary impatiently repeated, “You have to put down pairs…you know, cards that are alike. For example, two red six cards, or two black eights.”
Betty snickered, “There’s only one old maid card. If the game ends and you have that in your hand, you lose…you’re the old maid.”
Panic rose up inside of me. Losing was bad, but to be the old maid! That was horrible! I didn’t ever want to be an old maid!” Although I knew this was just a game, I irrationally felt it was a predictor of my future. If I lost the game, I would live a miserable, lonely, loveless life in reality. When I finally saw the card, I felt even worse. The face of the old maid was wrinkled and ugly.
My sisters were merely playing a game, but in my mind, I was high-stakes gambling my life away. The game eventually ended and I was the one left holding the old maid card!
I began to cry. Betty made things worse when she laughed and teased, “You’re an ugly old maid.” I screamed and tried to kick her.
Mom was in the kitchen preparing supper when she heard the commotion. She stepped into the room and demanded, “What’s going on in here?”
Mary reported, “Kathy’s a big baby and a poor sport. We were playing a game of old maid and she lost.”
Mom soothed, “Kathy, it was just a game. Someone wins and someone loses. It doesn’t matter. Now, put the cards away. I have supper nearly ready. Help me by setting the table.”
By the time my family and I sat down to eat, I was feeling much better. As usual, the food was delicious and abundant, which was a good thing because each member of the family had a good appetite.
I had just finished everything on my plate and was eyeing the last two pieces of meat on the serving platter. Before I could make a move, my brother Billy reached out and took one. He innocently quipped, “Whoever eats the last one is an old maid.”
Silence fell over the family table. My brothers hadn’t been in the house when I had had my tantrum. Interestingly, it appeared that none of my sisters wanted to be an old maid, either! Mom sighed and said, “For heavens sakes, I know some of you wanted more. Just take the last piece.”
Finally, my brother Casper scooped the last serving onto his plate, saying, “I’ll be the old maid.”
I stared at him resentfully. Although I had won the game by not eating the last piece, I still felt I had lost somehow.