“What’s a legacy?” my nine-year-old son asked the day before Thanksgiving.
I rubbed my hands together and cackled, “Wah-ha-ha! You’ll find out this weekend, my pretty.”
My family has many legacies, most of them rich stories of our predecessors, an urge to write things down, and a goofiness that crosses generational lines. The hope I had for this holiday season was that one of the family skeletons — ahem, excuse me –- legacies would be passed on to the next generation.
I’ll admit my generation has been remiss. When I threw the word “Pig” out in the midst of the collected cousins,not a single one, not even the fifteen-year-old, had a glimmer of the deep emotional experience ahead.
The elder generation explained that Pig was like the card game Spoons, except we have only enough cards for each person to have a set of four and we pass to each other in a deliberate way, not full speed, the better to build suspense. We also explained that non-pigs couldn’t talk to people with pig or they were out.
They didn’t believe it when the first one of us told them about the blood. However, by the time their beloved grandmother, Ma, mentioned that the oriental carpet was a good color to disguise the spillage, they had begun to shoot nervous glances at each other.
We proceeded. About eight of us played with typical, silent Pig intensity. When the first spoon was snuck from the pile in the middle, it caught them flat-footed. But then, proper Pig spirit began to infuse the circle and the innocents forged ahead, jittery but game.
They began to understand the deep tribal bonding of Pig when my daughter showed first blood with a turned-back fingernail, and my mother and I carried her off, triumphant, to apply band-aids and kissies. When 5’3” Aunt Sally wrested the spoon away from 6’2” Uncle David as he wedged her to the floor with his shoulder, they understood the fiery strength of the family’s women. When Aunt Barbara, ejected in two games for speaking to the pig, kicked her feet in the air on the sidelines, screeching “The little one got it, the little one got it,” they recognized her precarious mental balance and the fact she’s a hopeless blabbermouth. Non-pigs found the fortitude to ignore the blandishments of pigs offering either pie or provoking insults.
So much of a legacy to carry our beloved children through life: joy in a battle well-fought, admiration for strong women, tolerance for the slightly unhinged, and resistance against impertinence and unnecessary pie. To quote Vin Scully, who must have been a Pig player himself, “When you get to Heaven, God won’t count your money or awards or your degrees. He’ll count your scars.”
Carry on, piglets.