I had a conversation with a friend of mine recently about how just how “old” comic book characters like Superman and Batman actually are. I told her that when I was a kid I always assumed that they were somewhere in their 30s, but now I assume they’re in their 40s. Why? Because I just can’t be older than my heroes. I can’t!
Works the same way with parents, I guess. Growing up, your parents are older than you and that’s how it always is. But upon recently finding out, during a “happy retirement” lunch with my father, that when he was hired to his job he was the exact same age that I am now, it gave me cause to reflect that my parents were indeed once my age, and conversely, I grew up to be the age they were then.
When I was a kid, sometime around 10 years old or so, my parents would often have get-togethers with their friends, and being that I was one of those kids who you could take anywhere and put on auto-pilot, they’d bring me along. Usually I’d have my trusty stack of comic books or my Game Boy, and I’d be perfectly content to amuse myself on a stairway landing (I didn’t grow up in a two-story house, so I was fascinated with stairs) while they had their “grown-up” fun … and again, by “grown up” I mean roughly the age I am right now.
This “fun” would often consist of the occasional bout of standing around an ice cream maker or the weenie-roast pit, but invariably the night would come down to the real fun. Which is why I bring to you, from the Jan. 16, 1980, and the Nov. 2, 1981, Journal Gazettes, this article touting the benefits of fondue accompanied by a ridiculous drawing of a fondue pot, and an ad for “Deluxe” set of Uno cards.
Look, it was the ‘80s, fondue was big. Actually, it might have been big in the ‘70s and they were just getting the news, via that informative article, or the equipment was on sale at 3-D Discount. It may seem silly, but I do recall a moment where I was sitting on a barstool in a kitchen watching the video for Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” on MTV (this, by the way, is how I know how to time stamp these events properly), watching my parents skewer and fondue-fry little pieces of chicken and pork and thinking “that’s what being an ‘adult’ must be like.” I guess my image of being an adult has evolved over the years, since eventually I‘d think being an adult meant moving to Champaign and listening to a lot of Steely Dan.
And when the table was cleared to make room for the Uno, I was really fascinated. I grew up thinking my parents hated games, and yet there they were, at a table with their buddies and playing cards. Again, just like real grown-ups.
A game of Uno is still considered “playing cards” right? I mean, in a time of more mature games like poker, there’s nothing wrong with whipping out that classic multi-colored deck is there? Ahh, Uno. The classic game of “well it’s raining and it’s the only thing we can find in the drawers of grandpa’s camper." Ever since that moment, I’ve let Uno sort of follow me around through my whole life, just like baking soda in the fridge and a roll of shop towels in the trunk, it’s just something you’re supposed to have with you in case you need it.
I “liberated” what I consider to be a one-of-a-kind knitted “Uno Caddy” out of a closet in my parents' house, which I still have to this day. And that classic vintage-style Uno deck has really got some miles on it since then, that’s for sure. If Stephen King wrote about how his college years were spent in a protected “Atlantis” playing hearts, then my late college years were spent the same, except playing Uno; probably incorrectly, because we always allowed for people to draw two cards if they couldn’t play a card, instead of one.
Speaking of that, did you know you’re also probably playing Uno wrong? That’s right, you can’t play the dreaded “Wild Draw Four” card if you’re actually holding the color or number that’s on top of the discard pile. Yes, since your cards are secret, only you know the truth, but you’re encouraged to play to the “spirit” of the rules because if you don’t other players are allowed to “challenge” you to show your hand if they think you didn’t, with a four-card draw penalty assessed to whomever was wrong.
This led to a still-talked-about incident with some friends who claimed I was trying to pull a fast one by breaking this rule (I was … technically, but I just forgot the rule) and from my perspective, I didn’t have to show my hand because simply saying “You’d better not have a blue” was not an official "challenge." This is the kind of jerk reading the old rules to even older games can turn you into, I guess; although my old Uno rules did feature a clip-out ad for some sweet Uno hats and drinking glasses, an offer which has now sadly expired. I’m thinking about sending it in anyway just to see if anyone writes back.
A friend of mine has a three-and-a-half-year-old who naturally thinks I’m the most interesting person in the world. She’s just at that age where she’s starting to become aware of the “grown up”, or “Grome-Up,” going by how she says it, hobbies I enjoy and that she wants to take part in herself; a list that right now consists mostly of “playing Mario” on my 3DS, but hey there’s time enough still to get around to Uno. A comforting thought, I guess. Although this means I have to take into account that my parents may have been, under further consideration, “cool” all along.