The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Three generations of the Madden family have had the pleasure of playing Monopoly at campsite 81. Every Summer for over twenty years, Mary and Vince spent weeks at the Poconos, inviting their children and grandchildren to come up for weekends and eat s’mores and tell stories around the campfire. It was Grandma’s home away from home.

The air at the mountainous campground is different from the air down by sea level. It feels crisp, fresh, it smells like rain and rocks and dirt. Late at night, you can hear campfires crackling in the distance and the shrieks of joyful children. The campground also harbors Campsite 81, a pebble-strewn piece of land marked by a red sign nailed to a tall pine tree, and on one particular night, it also harbored many crying grandchildren.

“Grandma, can we PLEASE play Monopoly?”

Four of Mary’s grandchildren looked up at her with pleading eyes, they were all about seven years old and they idolized the family’s favorite boardgame. They only knew of the handicap version of the game, the one in which everyone wins. That night, Mary would teach them how to play correctly, it was more fun that way.

Mary, her husband and master of Monopoly, Vincent, and four of their grandchildren, Johnny, Colleen, Steven, and Brian gathered into the green mesh-lined tent on the edge of the campsite. Gas lamps lit up the inside, the red picnic bench was draped over with a checkered tablecloth and on top of it laid the property trading game, Monopoly.

The game began slow, Vince poked fun at his grandkids and they giggled and fidgeted as the night moved on past their bedtime. As the game moved forward the giggling started to subside, nervous grandchildren rolled the die with their fingers crossed and counted up their diminishing piles of money.

Johnny shook the die jumping from foot to foot, “Please, please please...” he rolled and landed right on another’s property, forking his last dollars away. Staring at the board he sniffled, then he started to bawl. Vince and Mary hushed and calmed him, the boy’s crying began to subside when the youngest of the group spoke up. Colleen held her head up and began to lecture Johnny.

“Johnny don’t cry! You played really well but you lost this time and that’s okay! Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

Johnny wiped his eyes and the game resumed; however, it wasn’t long until another contestant fell out of the game. Brian lost his last $100, everyone glanced carefully at the boy, he took a deep breath in, then let out a wail. The group fretted to cease his tears and Colleen began her lecture again. “No use in crying, it’s just a game!” The cheery little girl nodded ferociously at Brian to assure him he’d be okay. Shortly after, Steven lost too and the sobbing ensued once more with Colleen lecturing about the importance of losing gracefully.

Mary, Vince, and Colleen were left to compete for the win. Money was getting tight, the boys rooted for Colleen and made bets about who would be the next to go, watching as the money trickled out of her hands. With the die in her hand, Colleen waved her fist and dropped the cubes, earning herself a spot on the most dreaded of all the properties: Boardwalk. The girl reluctantly moved herself to the blue tile and handed her remaining bills to her Grandpa.

“It’s okay” she said, eyebrows scrunching up, “I-I tried my best,” her lip began to quiver, “It’s alright” and with that the little girl started to bawl, crying at her loss despite her efforts to hold it in. Mary and Vince held in their laughter as Colleen cried, defeating her own ideals on losing with pride.

You win some, you lose some. Luckily, Mary knew how everyone could still be winners and she exclaimed, “Okay! Who wants s’mores!”

Monopoly and Life Lessons

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Summer 1990's
Delaware Water Gap, PA

Three generations of the Madden family have had the pleasure of playing Monopoly at campsite 81. Every Summer for over twenty years, Mary and Vince spent weeks at the Poconos, inviting their children and grandchildren to come up for weekends and eat s’mores and tell stories around the campfire. It was Grandma’s home away from home.

Recorded by Alex Madden on June 2, 2020
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