As published in The Providence Sunday Journal, July 15, 2018.
I awoke to the sound of rain pattering insistently at the bedroom window. “Might not be a beach day,” I thought.
My wife, Deb, and I were renting a house on Block Island for the week. It had become an annual tradition – taking our three children to this serene spot off the Rhode Island coast for a summer vacation. The kids called it Pork Chop Island because of its shape, so recognizable on souvenir T-shirts and hats. Deb and I called it heaven because it let us escape the hectic pace of everyday life at home, at least temporarily.
On sunny mornings, we’d ride boogie boards in the pristine surf at Mansion Beach. In the afternoon, the kids would set up a lemonade stand at the foot of our driveway on Spring Street to hawk cold drinks to people making the uphill trek to the Mohegan Bluffs. On clear nights, the five of us would gaze across Block Island Sound to Point Judith Light, 13 miles, and a universe, away.
From the look of things outside on this morning, however, such activities might have to wait until the following day.
We headed into town to have breakfast and kill time. At Aldo’s Bakery, Peter, our oldest, asked if he could have a mint chip ice cream cone instead of pancakes.
“Why not?” Deb said, loosening the parental reins. “It’s vacation.”
At Blocks of Fudge on Chapel Street, our 10-year-old, Evan, asked if he could get a bag of Skittles. It was 9:30.
“Why not?” I said, following Deb’s lead. “It’s vacation.”
After ducking into the arcade at the National Hotel during a downpour, Deb and I tried to coax the kids into going to the Island Free Library, which was right around the corner.
“Can we go back to the fudge store?” our daughter and youngest child, Juliana, asked.
We climbed into our minivan and drove at island speed, which is not a lot faster than walking, through the rain to our rental house. It was 10:15. What would we do all day?
Play cards and board games, of course. War, Go Fish, Pictionary, Blokus, Monopoly – they were as much a part of our summer vacations as sunburned shoulders and sandy towels, especially when the weather was crummy.
On this morning, we settled on Yahtzee, a perennial family favorite. The game incorporates elements of poker as players roll five dice on each turn to make various scoring combinations. A five-of-a-kind scores 50 points, the highest of any category.
On her first roll, Julie defied the 1-in-1,296 odds of having all five dice come up the same.
“Yahtzee!” she yelled, rising from the table with her hands over her head.
The rest of us had seen this before. Julie was a Yahtzee wunderkind, having once posted a score of 508. The chance of scoring 500 or more points in a single game is about 1 percent. I was generally happy to reach half that.
In a later game on this rainy day, after rolling two sixes and needing just one more to win, I shook the dice and watched a pair of threes and a five tumble onto the table. A curse flew from my lips.
“Dad!” my daughter said with feigned shock.
“It’s vacation!” I said with a grin as I scooped up the dice for yet another game. The kids erupted with glee.
Fast-forward 15 years to Father’s Day 2018. With Evan and Julie home to celebrate, Deb announced that she was “feeling a board game.” Sure enough, after lunch, the old, scuffed Yahtzee box came out. We put down our phones, picked up the dice, and played deep into the evening, just as we had done so often “on the Block.”
As usual, Julie seemed to notch the top score in most games, but that night, laughing and breathing together, we were all winners.