This past weekend our family gathered to celebrate Dad’s 85th birthday. My brothers and their families, plus our own grown kids, traveled from five cities in three states to Davis, where Mom and Dad relocated last spring. It was our first big gathering since the move, and lasted four-ish days. The big night was Saturday, and we began the official party at a local Thai restaurant where my folks recently discovered the concept of Happy Hour, testing the menu for us (they sacrifice so much!) They reserved the big table, and pre-planned our order, so when the cocktails and food kept coming (and coming and coming), it really felt like we were guests at a lavish and exotic dinner party. Plus, no dishes.
Afterwards the 14 of us gathered at our house for a little more libation, pie and the family history game. It was such a blast that I wanted to share it, so you might modify it for your own family. Mom and Dad are retired elementary school teachers, explaining pretty much everything you need to know about how they approach grandparenting. Mom has done an incredible job of documenting our family history, which includes lots of early American history, and Dad has taken the storytelling route by documenting all of his/our pets (from his first dog Spotty, to our family tarantula and the snakes) his cars and our family vacations. These are all in color coded notebooks, distributed to each family group. We had the idea to do a family trivia game, and made it up as we went along. We knew we wanted it to be fun, especially for the seven twenty-somethings in our group, so we started with crisp, clean dollar bills, 100 of them.
Mom and Dad made a list of 60 questions, with the plan of a $1.00 prize for each correct answer. There was a set of $5 questions, but we never got that far. My folks made the list, starting with the easy questions (“What was the name of Bill’s first dog?” And if you’re paying attention, you’ve won a buck) to the harder ones (“In what war did Grandma Jessie’s 6GG, John Post, serve as Captain? Answer, Revolutionary). We had specific family lore (“Who totaled Grandpa’s brand new (and first ever) car, the month it was paid off?” Answer, Kim. Now we all know, and we don’t have to ever speak of it again, ok?). We had to recount Halloween costumes, motorcycles, and what five items were rationed during WW2. Mom distributed the questions before we gathered, and also marked books at her house, so when we were hanging out, we could prepare. It turns out we have a family split between those who study and those who don’t. It may have to do with who was most motivated to earn money for laundry the next week.
Where was Bill’s favorite fishing spot? How did Billy learn that a fish pond is not an ideal bathtub for white rabbits? What happened on Bill and Jan’s second date?
We had clipboards, paper and pens, and distributed them, but hadn’t figured out the rest. We announced that Dad would read the questions, Mom would hand out the money (sitting in a big glass bowl) partnering and cheating was allowed, and the rules might change as we went along. Turns out, that was important, because after everyone shouted “SPOTTY” at once, we needed more structure. Brendan took on the role of game host and instructed folks when to write and the did the count down to show their answers. Ken was calling in from Texas and he called out his answers when we turned the boards. By the way, he didn’t have the marked books, and he may have had the most right answers, winning $26.00. He was the only one who attempted the $5 question (“recite the family tree, ending with your own name”) and got most of that correct.
During WWII, Grandpa Jim was too old to be a soldier, so he volunteered as a _________. Great Grandma Aggie was a loyal baseball fan. What was her favorite team? How did Jessie and Jim get the boys to behave at Sunday School?
What I loved about the game was that Dad could add a few stories, and we could each toss in a few of our own. Every question led to another “remember this?” which was really the best prize of all. Except for the pie, that was pretty fab, too.
Bill and Jan attended the First Annual All-Star Pro Bowl Game at the LA Coliseum. What was the price of the program?
We lasted for an hour and went through all the money, but not all of the questions. We yelled and screamed and laughed, which are all family activities, yes? There are a ton of ways to do this, including two truths and a lie (Jake’s idea) or multiple choice. Mom thought each person might pick their own questions to answer. I think the advanced version would be for each person to write questions for the others. And those with discipline (not us) could do it Jeopardy reverse question style.
There you have it…if you try it, let me know how it goes. We are lucky enough to have another set of grandparents (and lots more twenty something cousins), so we may have to try the Swedish/Italian version next.
Happy Birthday, Dad!