Joyce Hinnefeld


Friday, August 3, 2012

The Game of Life

A new experience for me this summer: getting letters from my daughter at camp. Can there be anything more exhilarating than getting a letter from your almost-eleven-year-old that begins "The second day has been equal in its awesomeness to the first day"? She's having fun; I can relax.

In July I had two wonderful weeks in New England--first on Cape Cod with two of my oldest and dearest friends, Rita and Eva, to celebrate our "big birthday" this year. I'm not being coy; I just get tired of saying it. Let's just say that one of the books I took along was Tracey Jackson's Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty Is Not the New Thirty. Another was Emma Donoghue's Room, which I'd wanted to read but kind of dreaded reading too (a cross between dread of reading about a child being held captive and, I'll admit it, dread of the inevitable envy of another writer's success). But it was every bit as good as I'd been told, surprising in a number of ways, and it made me feel the admiring kind of envy that I don't mind.

On the Cape we had fun biking, cooking, exploring different beaches and making lots of jokes about being middle-aged. (For example, our version of the Portlandia episodes where Lisa and Bryce put birds on things or exclaim "We could pickle that!" was our response to any leftover food item, at home or in a restaurant: "We could put that on a salad!" Middle-aged women love thrifty and creative salads). But I'm pleased to say there was also some good old-fashioned sexual humor, of the sort we might have indulged in while in college; ask my friend Eva for her interpretation of the name of the Dennisport, MA restaurant called The Wee Packet.

The second week was my yearly trip to Vermont with Jim and Anna, staying at the wonderful Pie in the Sky in Marshfield and enjoying time with friends who stay nearby. This was the year for playing The Game of Life with Anna and her friend Kathleen, who were both obsessed with it for some reason. Remember that board game? In one rendition I was a gay male in an orange car, starting out as a doctor making $70,000/year (presumably the version of the game we were playing was a few years old . . . though it did feature "Tech Support Person" as one possible job), then dropping to $30,000/year (no explanation, but I assumed malpractice of some sort), then switching careers, to sales, and making $60,000. I had a partner but never had kids or did anything with the cheap fixer-upper I bought--though I did install an expensive at-home gym. (Please remember that most of these "life choices" are based on the spaces you land on and the cards you draw, which might sort of be the point, in an existential sense; I'm not sure.) I retired to the place called Country Estates--not Millionaire Estates, where Anna and Kathleen both retired at the game's end--with a total of $635,000 in money and assets, as opposed to Anna and Kathleen's millions.

Here was something particularly intriguing: Though I wanted to play more recklessly, foregoing the purchase of car and home insurance and choosing not to repay my college loans (in other words, being the carefree person I've never quite been able to be), every time we played I felt incredible pressure to do these responsible things because the two ten-year-olds I was playing with kept purchasing every possible form of insurance and repaying loans as soon as they could. What was that all about?

Two photos here, one from a walk on the beach at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge off the elbow of Cape Cod, one of the sun porch and barn at Pie in the Sky.


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    1. Enjoyable, as always. Interesting to think of you having that "big birthday". Glad you've had a good summer. Sincerely, Mary Lea St. Clair

  2. Thanks, Mary Lea. Time does march on, doesn't it?