On new year’s eve, it was okay to gamble. As a child, I have never connected the dots, didn’t know what gambling really means, and didn’t reflect on its connection with the grown-ups table that shows some seriousness and tension and attracts lots of attention at the extended-family end of year, longest night, party. The music was usually up, family members chat chat chat all over the place, kids get to catch up and lern better about their second cousins. TV was usually on, out loud, specially at the moment where the year ends and another year comes into play. Cheers, screams, countdown, hugs, kisses, congratulations, love, but the silent table stays out of this world. Wives, run to hug their table husbands, and kids rush to wish their dads a happy new year.
While that table has usually been dominated by old men, women were welcome to join. They had the option of taking on their husband’s cards, or starting independently with their own money (taken out of their husband’s pockets), or just sitting there next to their husband observing and supporting. The table, usually full of smoke, wasn’t also hostile for children, for I remember enjoying the time sitting next to my dad and hoping for the ace to be his hidden card. How exciting it was for me to have dad, sometimes it was mom, showing me subtly the nature of their hidden card. A gesture of respect and trust for the kid and a nice connection between a parent and a son.. on a poker table, yes.
It wasn’t a bit amount of money that played out. Usually the opening bid was 5 pences, the upper limit was 20. But for a kid, it was MONEY. And it was nice seeing the accumulation of those coins infront of the most fortunate player, especially if that fortunate player was someone I liked – so exciting.
I guess that the excitement was not limited to those few lost or won few dinars, but rather extended to read the prospect of next year in terms of the night’s luck. In the car back home, exhausted and sleepy at the back seat late in the night, I remember usually making sure to check up on our family’s luck.
So dad, did you win tonight?
I neither lost nor win
What about you mom?
I made two dinars!
and uncle Jamal?
Same like me I guess, twins brothers share same luck, but Henitte (his wife) did pretty well.. poor Emile (dad’s cousin) had no luck tonight.
Next year was usually meant to be the same as the current one, family luck has never changed through the years. Time passes fast, we grow up, and beautiful moments turn into beautiful memories. The hope at the end of every year remains the same; better year, better future, more love. The connection with parents is the sacred bless, in goodness or in sin, that subtle hidden card showing is the secret of our love.