Rummikub and Scrabble boxes on a  table.
Image courtesy Maxine Wagenhoffer.

I was very athletic and competitive when I was growing up. I could outrun a lot of the boys in my grade, and I was always strong. But one person who kept up with me when it came to board games was my mother.

Our game was, and still is, Scrabble. Whenever we would go on vacation, we would travel with the game. We would try to play at least a few games each trip; each vacation was like a mini tournament. And now, whenever I go back to New Jersey to visit, I try to see if I can still beat my mom.

But it is not always about winning. A lot of times, we try to create words that serve as building blocks to help the next player. In many ways, how we play is more collaborative than competitive. And whenever we play with other people, we try to share that camaraderie. Sometimes, we do not keep score; instead, we concentrate on putting forth engaging words and learning from each other. My vocabulary has expanded from the many games I have played; I still enjoy learning new words that can enhance my game-playing skills.

While I was in high school, an elderly family friend introduced us to Rummikub. Whenever my mom and I went to her house, she would bring out the box and we knew it was game time. Even though she was in her eighties, she had tremendous energy and was a cutthroat player. One snowy night, we played five games in a row! Around game four, she offered us some caffeinated beverages, which we accepted. When we finished the fifth and final game, we could tell that she could have gone another round. She passed away when I was in college. Now, each game of Rummikub I play brings up memories of playing with her. Moreover, as I was over sixty years her junior, I recall the life lessons I learned from her; I miss having those moments with her. Rummikub will always have a special place in the rotation of games that I play.  

My mother and I also enjoy playing Authors, a quintessential card game. We have stumbled upon different variations, such as American Women Authors, my favorite. My mom still usually beats me at this one. When I was a child, some of my father’s friends taught me how to play poker, but I learned early on that I did not have an effective “poker face.” I prefer to stick with Authors.

Recently, my parents came to visit me in Columbus, Ohio, and I set up a Scrabble game with my mom and one of my friends. We had a blast, and even though my friend brought his first-rate skills and competitiveness, I won! He has a bunch of board games that I have never played before, and I am hoping that I can dive into his favorites and create more memories soon.

-Maxine Wagenhoffer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.​​

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