I finished edging my perennial beds yesterday with my trusty long handled flat nosed shovel. Should anyone need a close shave they are available. Day lilly, siberian Iris and peony nubs, and the fat buds on my Japanese cherry trees all looked on as the last of winters disarray was removed to the mulch pile. Just in time for the hard rain forecast for the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains this weekend.
Rainy weekends of my youth taught me everything I know about the science of economics. We played marathon games of Monopoly on the screened porch and tested our wings in flights of capitalist fancy. Moms made peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and we rolled the dice to see who made what and who owed who this time around. We became experts on what was good property. We built houses and hotels, owned railroads and utilities. Fortunes were made and lost and lessons were almost, but not quite, learned. Luck played a role and there were natural born cheaters in our midst. That we did learn. But, I think, the thing we missed, the thing we as children failed to fully comprehend was the inevitability of game itself. The inescapable fact that the game always ended the same way. One person ended up with it all!
I think the lesson of that cold fact escaped us because the winners gloating was always eclipsed by cries of “lets play again” or, “Look the sun is coming out, lets go fishing”. We either forgot the game entirely and ran off to collect blue-gills and sunnies, or, we divided up the money again and played Monopoly one more time. Nothing was final. Not the weather, not our youth and certainly not the economic realities of an adulthood so far off it wasn’t even worth thinking about. In the bottom of that old cardboard box, where the little pamphlet marked “Instructions” slept, amidst the clutter of unused wooden houses and hotels there was nothing in the way of a warning. Nowhere on that little “Rules Book” was there any [Black Box] or BOLD LETTERING to indicate to us in the naive tenderness of our youth that there was something very serious to be considered about this so called game. Something, in fact, almost sinister. There were simply no indications that, one day, we would ALL be expected to play this game for real…. ONCE… and how ever it came out that was it.
I can’t help but think that should have been in there. We SHOULD have been encouraged to, while we were still children, give some thought to what we would do to the first player who won it all and then insisted upon keeping the money, the playing pieces and the board. We should have been pushed, somehow, to consider our options, to contemplate our strategies and list our possibilities. But we weren’t I think because children usually aren’t that mean and even if they were there is a good chance they never would have had enough friends to make a game to begin with. Even if they did the omnipotent overlord of all things good and righteous could be counted upon to put things right. A cry would go out from the porch for MOM!… and she would calmly explain to everyone how selfishness was a sin and that if we all were going to remain friends we were going to have to learn to share.
I think what I am left wondering today is how we were smart enough to put [WARNING] labels on packs of cigarettes but not on games of Monopoly. How it made sense to us collectively to inform people that taking the enjoyment of nicotine too seriously would inevitably be harmful when, after all, cigarettes only harmed one person at a time. How we, somehow, missed the fact that taking the enjoyment of the game of Monopoly too seriously would lead to…. Well, you can see that for yourself, can’t you?
I heard this morning that John Candy died 17 years ago today. The older I get the more things I just find hard to believe.