Ancient History

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Candy Land Xtreme Flamethrowing Portal Edition

Our family loves geeking out with board games. At least once a month, we host Game Day. Friends and family come over to play all the live-long day. We play with cards. We play with dice. We play party games, boys v. girls, couples v. couples, and head-to-head. We play cute stuff, serious stuff, robot stuff, antiquities stuff. We make volcanoes explode and we pursue trivia.

The little ones witness our board game love and want to be involved, but often they can’t keep up. Starter games like Hi-Ho Cherry O! and Husker Du! are a great way to get them into the family hobby. Over time, pieces get lost and they end up playing Candy Land with a Parcheesi marker, a Monopoly shoe, a minifig, and Goldfish cracker. Not cool. I decided to give the three little boys a chance to start over fresh, so they received Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders for Christmas. I found the vintage editions so they don’t have to slog through the horrors of Queen Frostine and the Bratzification of modern editions.

This doesn’t mean the little boys leave their modern sensibilities behind.

See: Teddy

Teddy and my mom were the first to play Candy Land. They were the lucky ones to unseal the cards and free the gingerbread people. Teddy, who is in kindergarten, readily understood what to do. Their two gingerbread dudes set off down the colored path. I was around the corner in the kitchen when I heard Teddy shriek about “the bad guys.” Yep, Land O’ Candy has a villain who resides in the Gingerbread Plum tree. It turns out this is a portal to another world. If you land on the corresponding square, God help your soul. God help your soul.

Run, you fools!

Run, you fools!

They continued to play until they reached the end. I heard reports of my mom’s gingerbread man falling into the ocean. Both survived peril along the way. While I was poking baked potatoes, a sugar-coated Jumanji was unfolding. The Lollipop Woods were dark and deep. The Molasses Swamp might seem jaunty and colorful, but it is full of despair that hasn’t been seen since Gollum lead the Hobbitses through the Dead Marshes.

Later, I played with Teddy, Ollie, and 15-year-old Sam who joined after I begged him to help balance the odds and bear witness. If Teddy was right and a portal lurks betwixt the cloying sticky leaves of the Gingerbread Plum tree, we would need a messenger to set things right. When Sam was swirled up The Rainbow Trail on his first card—his first card!—I knew this was the wisest move. He dodged the portal and was able to light beacons along the way as I seemed to plod along, card by card, never drawing the coveted double-colored square cards. It seemed hopeless. It seemed like a three-part, nine-hour commitment.

But then I drew the Ice Cream Floats card and was lifted upon the wings of a great eagle and flown directly to the corresponding square. I woke in a gauzy-light soaked room built of discarded popsicle sticks. Sam plucked the next card, a tesseract that enabled him to move from somewhere near the deadly Crooked Old Peanut Brittle House to the Lollipop Woods. He soon caught up to me and it was a race to the end credits and Home Sweet Home. I stepped through the mirror first and opened the wardrobe door wearing a fur coat atop a mithrill shirt. Kate Blanchett did that gentle smile thing she does.

Meanwhile, Teddy and Ollie were left befuddled.

Little kids learn to be good sports when they lose games, so I didn’t feel bad at all. I should have left them with the words of dreamy Aragorn: “Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised” or better yet, from Guardians of the Galaxy: I am Groot.

I had foil-wrapped tubers to glare at in the kitchen. The game was packed away.

I can’t wait to play Candy Land again!

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