Learning to Play
“You should come down and play Scrabble with me some evening when your kids are away,” she urged. “It’s easy. I’ll teach you.”
I had never been one to play with words. Read, yes, but I never did crosswords, jumbles, or any other puzzles that required manipulating letters. But my diminutive elderly neighbor Mrs. Perreault had a way about her, a way of making you believe that you were special. She met me often as I walked the streets of our neighborhood with my young children. She always had a kind word for me and my children, and she often urged me to visit.
So, when my kids began to go to their dad’s for overnight visits, on one of those Friday nights
when I went from being a full-time single mom to simply single, I accepted. One Friday evening, loneliness drove me down the street where I found myself at Mrs. Perrault’s doorstep. She came to the door, smiled kindly, and invited me inside.
After that first night when Mrs. Perreault pulled out her Scrabble game and began to teach me to play, it became a habit for the two of us to meet together every Friday evening. We sat at her kitchen table with her Scrabble board and she taught me, week after week, the tricks of the game. Toward the end of each game she nudged me. “Let me see what you have there,” she said, reaching for my tray of letters. “Let’s see where you can put those last few letters.” She always beat the pants off me, but each week I improved my score little by little.
I knew her only in her final years. She lived to be about ninety-two, but we shared many, many stories as we sat together during those evenings together. Mrs. Perreault had faced many hard times herself. At age five she had entered an orphanage during the Depression because her widowed mother could not afford to care for her. Her beloved only son, Charlie, survived WWII only to die in a motorcycle accident just months after the war ended. Her marriage was difficult and lonely.
One Christmas she gave me a deluxe Scrabble game. I believe it was her way of telling me how much she enjoyed our games and my company. It wasn’t long afterwards that she died of heart failure. The Scrabble© games we had shared came to an end.
My husband and I still enjoy using this gift from Mrs. Perreault. Each time we pull the board out, with the little plastic ridges along the surface of the board in which each tile nestles safely in its spot, I think of Mrs. Perreault and her gentle encouragement. Oh, the laughter, the fun and companionship we shared, all of which helped me through some dark, dark times.
In our darkest of days, if we’re lucky, there are a few who will be able to stay the course and help us through. And if we’re very lucky, there will even be times of fun and laughter, despite the darkness. But only if we’re very, very lucky. Mrs. Perreault prodded me to think hard, to discover words hidden in plain sight on my wooden tray in the jumbled alphabet. And she taught me to take advantage of opportunities to score double words and double (even triple!) letters on occasion.
Before Jon and I start playing I often find myself back in those dark days, but just for a moment. What really stays, beyond the darkness, are the sweet memories, the grace I received from a caring friend.
Marjorie Turner Hollman
Marjorie, I loved your story about Mrs. Perreault and how she genuinely extended her hand to you. What a special and kind woman she was and what a lucky Lady you are to have met her.
I enjoyed your story and thank you for sharing with all of us, hugs, Christine
Thanks Christine. I still think of this wonderful neighbor each time I pass her house, which is just about every day... Thanks for reading!