I was listening to NPR last week when I heard some important news that may not have hit the front page of The Sentinel.
The thimble, the wheelbarrow and the trusty boot have gotten the axe.
A T-Rex, a rubber ducky and a penguin are taking their place.
For now, the Scottie dog, the top hat, the cat, the car and the battleship are safe.
For most of you, it’s enough to speak in nouns, but for the rest not as up to date, No, I’m not speaking in spy code names. I’m talking about Monopoly, one of the best board games on the planet.
“Hasbro had asked fans in January to choose the next generation of tokens from a list of 64 options,” The New York Times reported. “More than 4.3 million votes were counted.”
After hearing the news, I was flooded with memories of playing the beloved game. For us, it was always played on the floor in our basement with me, my best friend Kristin and sometimes my little brother Matthew if we were feeling very, very generous and his hands were clean and he promised not to talk very much.
The game would start, of course, with choosing our tokens and deciding who would be the banker. Due to my superb secretarial skills — and the fact that it required little-to-no math — that would often be me. Boy howdy, I took my job seriously and would set up my little station with near Teutonic precision.
We’d roll the dice and the game was on. When we were very young, this meant buying a property only if you liked the color and not breaking a $500 if you could help it. As a result, St. James Place, Tennessee Avenue and New York Avenue, with their proletariat amber, were often left blowing in the breeze unclaimed. My personal favorites were Oriental, Connecticut and Vermont avenues, which were both well priced and whose icy blue hue conveyed, I felt, excellent taste.
As we got older, our strategy consisted of buying everything we could get our hands on and then only stacking hotels and houses on Boardwalk and Park Place.
It was only later that we graduated to a more in-depth game plan. I can’t speak for Kristin, who is now a physician and so pretty high up in the smarty pants category, but I can say for sure that that strategy didn’t get too sophisticated for Matthew and I.
I say this based on three childhood truths:
- If we had to draw a picture, I’d always draw a house and a tree and he’d always draw a cat because we couldn’t think of anything else.
- If we had to play the game Memory, we’d cheat halfway through.
- We’d play house on the staircase, which made for some cramped living conditions and quite a few falls.
Essentially, as far as kids go, there weren’t any geniuses living in the Kaprowy household.
Anyway, by the time we got older, we’d largely moved on to Pictionary and Scattergories. Monopoly just took too long.
And boy was it a marathon, wasn’t it? Hours would pass hoping for Free Parking and stressing that you’d go to jail, directly to jail, unable to pass go, unable to collect $200. By the time all the properties were bought, houses were built and someone’s money was dwindling, we’d look like little gargoyles hunched on the thinly carpeted basement floor.
I don’t ever remember eating or drinking during a Monopoly game, in large part because my mom was afraid we’d spill or “get crumbs on the carpet.” I also don’t remember getting up to go to the bathroom, likely because we were so dehydrated. So when the game ended, and our eyes were dry and our feet were asleep, standing up and stretching out was extremely memorable, a peek at age 8 what it would feel like to be age 80 when our joints were arthritic and our back was shot.
Aside from the physical relief, what did it feel like to finally finish a Monopoly game? Well, at first it was somewhat victorious. But then it left you feeling kind of empty. Like maybe you just wasted your time and would have been better off watching The Last Unicorn or building a cabin with popsicle sticks — assuming you could ever collect enough of them as your parents “won’t buy a pack of them because they don’t believe in craft supplies.”
But that is not to say I don’t have a lot of affection for the game, especially the board itself. I remember when I moved to Kentucky, I felt good about it in large part because I always had affection for the red Kentucky card on the board next to Indiana and Illinois. And I can never hear the expression “BO” without thinking in my mind of “Body & Odor Railroad.”
As for what token I chose, I was always the wheelbarrow: not too smart, but willing to work, just like me. So goodbye, old friend. And goodbye, Mrs. Thimble and trusty boot. The replacements have big shoes to fill.