It was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to do it. I looked at the five faces on the screen. Everyone seemed thoughtful, trying to figure this out: How do we play “Balderdash” on Zoom? Bigger questions would have to wait tonight, questions like, ‘When will we get to be in the same house with each other again?’ Tonight was game night. And all of us, my wife and three daughters, as well as our friend Jami and her two daughters, stood committed to finding a way to make this work across two houses in two separate towns.
Finally, a solution surfaced. “I’ll be the moderator,” Jami said, “so everyone can set the chat ‘private’ to me and send me your definitions. Then when I have them all, I can read them and you girls can pick the one you think is the real one.”
“How about I pick the word, since I have the game cards? I can text you the word and true definition?” I offered. This work-around seemed like it could work, and the chatter amongst the girls suddenly brightened. We all decided not to worry about rolling the dice, moving game pieces, or even worrying about the winner or score. Since we only owned the older original version of the game (the newest version includes categories and other features), the fun would be had listening to the funny words (like “syrt” and “bumclock”), inventing fake definitions, and trying to bluff others into choosing a phony definition.
After determining our “rules,” playing ensued. Several other challenges arose later: Our “free” Zoom calls ended multiple times. Feedback echoed throughout the house. New codes had to be generated and sent. Several times. We had to switch over to FaceTime. But through it all, laughter did find its way into both houses. And silliness. Familiar elements of our old lives, the ones that featured human connection, improvised togetherness, and an undefinable warmth of humanity, seemed to briefly reappear. Somehow, these familiarities found a way to penetrate the isolation, the fear, and the anxiety that characterize our current life situations.
Later, the girls moved on to playing charades. Even my little four-year-old, who had previously been running back and forth amongst the three devices (rooms), tasting cookie dough from the stainless steel bowl on her way, now found a way to join the game. Adults faded into the background, checking our phones for the latest Coronavirus updates. But to look up and see the joy in my daughters that night- these children of the pandemic- even though that joy sprang across social distance, somehow a new kind of hope seemed to alight in the house.
Closing the laptop at the end of the night, my eldest daughter remarked, “That was fun!” And it struck me that I had not heard those words delivered in that way for a while now. It felt good to hear them.