My family always related better to The Osbournes than The Brady Bunch.  While friends’ families were being photographed in matching burgundy turtlenecks for the annual Christmas photo, my family members had other priorities.  For my dad, this meant coaching basketball games all over the state of Connecticut.   For my mother, it was either hours at the yoga studio or relentlessly friending me on Facebook.  Oh…and what about my sister?  She was probably napping; she claimed to have chronic mono for over 2 years.

Growing up, I often yearned for the traditional, perfect American family…the kind that watched movies together at night with overflowing bowls of popcorn.  I used to try and make my family have movie nights.  On the rare occasions that we could agree on a movie, they were ruined by my parents’ snores trumpeting through the opening credits.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love each other.  I couldn’t ask for a better family.  It just so happens that “family bonding” is not one of our strengths.  But do we give up? No!  Every year we continue to coax each other into spending quality time together.  We have tried family roadtrips, museum tours, potluck dinners…you name it.

This year over Christmas break, my mother decided we should play Scrabble as a family.  It was the last night home for my sister and I so it seemed like a good way to end the holiday together.  My mom grabbed the Scrabble board and began to set up.  I grabbed a bottle of wine and four glasses….Game time!

Barely five minutes into the game and chaos erupts.  Always up for a good debate, my sister accuses my mother of cheating after catching her peeking at her Scrabble “2 and 3 letter word list”.  As they volley insults back and forth, I notice my dad is tuned out to everything around him. He has been completely focused on the football game on in the other room this whole time.  His tiles are all upside down in the plastic holder.  I rearrange them for him…but not without snatching his A and replacing it with a Q.

Finally my sister apologizes under her breath and the fight is resolved.  The game continues.  My sister and I team up to defeat our Scrabble-snob mother.  Dad is a football zombie by the end of the game and we feel no remorse in skipping his turn several times.  My only concern is that it is the final round and I am trailing my mom by 15 points.  My mom looks at her remaining tiles, shaking her head in frustration as she realizes she has no more moves.  This is my chance to finally beat her.  I lean in closer until I am almost eye-level with my tiles.  I Imagine the letters dancing into different word combinations above my head and I see my golden opportunity.  With a growing smirk, I place four tiles next to the A to spell out PASTA.  That’s 10 points and a win for ME!  I reach for the tally sheet so I can hang it on the fridge as a stinging reminder of my victory.

My dad jerks forward in his chair and grabs the notebook.  I forgot he still had one more turn.   “I’m just gonna wing it,” he proclaims as he picks up his only remaining letter.  With my father already 31 points behind, I begin to clean up the table as he fiddles his tile around on the board.  “Eh, I give up.  Ill just leave it here,” he plops the Q down next to the I in the right hand corner.  My mother, still bitter from defeat, peers at the board and she sips her last bead of wine.  I see the tiny clocks churning in her head as she puts down her glass.  She grabs her word list and looks up at me in awe pointing at “QI” on the sheet.  I can see her counting in her head….”triple word, ten plus one…times three…32 points!”.

It starts out small and almost unexpectedly but within seconds thundering laughter erupts from all four of us.  We laugh and laugh for what seems like hours.  I will always remember the image of my family doubled over in our chairs, holding our stomachs in happy pain as we gasp for air amidst fits of laughter.  Those wide smiles remained frozen on our faces for the rest of the night and I can’t help but smile even now as I write this.  I am smiling because no one expected my dad to win.  I am smiling because the moment was priceless.  But mostly, I am smiling because I am so acutely reminded why I wouldn’t trade my family for anything.