Solitaire: the gift that keeps on giving


When I was maybe six, my family stayed for a few days in Ocean Park, Washington, in a little cottage belonging to the parents of my sister-in-law Janet.  I don’t remember the beach, but I remember being huddled in the too-small cabin with what must have been six or seven other people.  They were probably miserable; I was in heaven.

And, to top it off, Janet taught me War.  And Slapjack.  And, best of all, Solitaire.

You may call it Klondike, or Patience.  You may play with slightly different rules than I do.  But I will always return to the simple deal-three-at-a-time version that Janet taught me in Ocean Park.

I spent many rainy summer afternoons at home playing it on my parents’ decorative coffee table at home, with two decks of bridge cards my parents never used because they didn’t play bridge.   I seldom won.

I took to it again in college.  I played compulsively, demonically, on my bed, my legs crossed in a Lotus pose that few can duplicate.  (I’m double-jointed.)  I actually got to the point, believe it or not, that I was winning two out of every three games.

I left the game for a while.  I came back to it in the Peace Corps, where it was useful for killing long warm dull North African afternoons.  My British friend Austin, watching me methodically lay out the cards one day, said in his picturesque way that it was “the most extraordinary waste of time and mental energy he’d ever seen.”  I thumbed my nose at him and continued to play.

Then computers came along, which revolutionized one-player card games, and one-player everything for that matter, if you know what I mean.

I got an iPad recently.  And it was not two days before it occurred to me to check the App Store for a nice free Solitaire app.

The game still takes me back to cloudy Northwest days, when I sat laying out game after game on my parents’ smooth cool Lucite table inlaid with petrified wood. There’s the quiet slap of cards as they’re put down, and the whirring sound of the shuffle, and that’s enough.  The rest is between me and Fate, also known as Dame Fortune, also known as Those Damned Cards.

I’ll have to drop a note to Janet and thank her for all these years of quiet absorbtion.

Now let’s just see if I can win three in a row.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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