Life lessons in little wooden tiles

Our fling with scrabble lasted only a fortnight but it was passionate.

When snow locked us in for a weekend we turned off the TV and removed the cellophane from an overlooked Christmas present.

The 11-year-old was hesitant at first. But he soon progressed from "boo" (5 points) and "hoe" (6 points) to "hook" (11) and "qua" (12 points).


We decided that under our house rules any word in the dictionary (except proper nouns) could be used and that included prefixes and suffixes and abbreviations. So we allowed "qua" and "ed" and "oz."

Our rules were that there was no time limit on the search for words in the dictionary. (Persistent perusal produced premium plays!) But you had to be considerate so that the other players wouldn't become impatient and quit.

"Quit" (13 points) became "quite" nicely with the "e" on double word score (28 points)! "Hand" was even more beautiful as "handsome."

"Hero" was good. "Heroine" was better. The kids quickly realized that while "oxygen" (17 points) looked breathtaking, "ox" would carry you on wings toward victory if the "x" was on a triple word score (25)!

We learned to plan our words around the triple- and double-word score squares and to treasure every "z," "x," "j" and "q" that came our way - unless they all came at once. (Unfortunately, no word contains all four of those letters - believe me, we tried!)

Almost every game had at least one blemish - "zit" which often became more palatable as "ziti."

Even after the snows melted and school was back in session, there was rarely a night that the 13-year-old didn't ask, "Mom, Dad, can we play Scrabble?"

Her flexible mind and willingness to scour Webster's meant that more often than not she won.

After two weeks, the fling finally began to fade. But this little board game had already "equipped" (63 points, triple word score!) us with some basic life lessons:

*Fun doesn't require a TV remote control.

*The dictionary is your friend.

*Patience pays.

*Throwing letters at your opponents causes more problems than it solves.

*Most important, it's not the length and elegance of your words but where they are placed that determines the final outcome.

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