“Let’s get the cards out!” is a phrase I would greatly anticipate as a child. Playing cards late into the night after a family dinner is a tradition going back to my maternal great grandmother. Throughout my youth and to this day, the card game has served as a stage for storytelling. As cards are shuffled and dealt, and as everyone waits for that family member who takes forever to make her move, memories of previous generations are recounted. My great grandmother immigrated from Longford, Ireland to New York in 1911. As the family matriarch, she would hold large dinners on Sundays followed by tea, coffee, and cards. My grandmother remembered falling asleep to the sounds of roaring laughter and playful teasing as her mother, father, aunts, and uncles, some of whom had just arrived from Ireland, would play late into the night. My mother shares warm memories of summers in the Rockaways when everyone would sit outside their bungalows at night and play pinochle or rummy. In addition to the memories of card games past, I learned about the lives of my relatives. It was during these games that my grandmother told stories of going to Ireland (by ship!) as a teenager and meeting her grandmother (my great-great grandmother) and cousins. In a respite between games, I learned about Uncle Joe who, after immigrating, owned a horse and carriage business in Central Park. Dealing a deck of cards, for my family, creates a space that reinforces family bonds and keeps history alive.
– M. Elevado