Despite the fact that we are all pretty easy going guys, the Clan of the McKenna Brothers could always be a tough group to crack into. Being relatively close in age and having spent a great deal time together in long car rides, hotel rooms, living rooms, sports teams and shared bedrooms, we accumulated a significant amount of inside jokes, go-to stories and code language. While we were always happy to have others join in the fun, it was sometimes hard for outsiders to catch-up with such a shared history.
Until each of us got married, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to how spouses might be fully brought into the circle. How would we know if they would fit in? What would we do to bring them into the circle? Would there be some kind of formal procedure or McKenna History test? Possibly a movie quote-off or participation in a Saved By The Bell trivia contest? Turns out the crucial moment comes when you would least expect it.
Our family is a game playing family. Whether it is board games, video games or sports, we like to compete and test ourselves against each other. It is also a perfect environment for telling and retelling old jokes and stories, to reminisce and reconnect. It is probably what I look forward to most whenever my brothers and I get back together.
It was also in the course of playing some games when I realized that my middle brother’s wife, Abby, wasn’t just my sister-in-law, but she was a true part of the clan. The first moment was when a group of us took a trip to Michigan to stay for a few days with Abby’s mom. There were sizable group of us from both sides of the family and it was getting late in the day. We could have all gone off our separate ways and did our own things, but we call came together to play a card game.
Before playing with other people, I always get a little nervous. The McKenna’s don’t always have the best luck when it comes to playing with others. While we are both good winners and good losers, we tend to spend a lot of time winning. And no matter how gracious you are at winning, sometimes that can still get on other people’s nerves. And we are all pretty good at playing games. My parents might have been accused at one point or another by other family members of going home at night and memorizing Trivial Pursuit questions. My wife and I may have thrown a game or two of Cranium in our life’s so that the other couples we were playing with didn’t start openly screaming at one another. So it is with this backdrop, that I wondered how this gaming session was going to go. I soon realized that I had nothing to worry about.
Abby was more than up to the challenge. She played hard, she played well and most importantly she was into the game. She jumped right into the jokes and the stories and the good natured ribbing. It was like she had been a part of the group for years.
And it isn’t just limited to board games. There was one weekend we all spend together joined in the common goal of helping Mario, Luigi and Toad try to once again rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. Not only was Abby an active participant but she was leading the charge and became so enthralled with the game that after that weekend, she went out and bought the same game for her and my brother to have at home to practice their skills and be ready to play in the future. A true member of the family, through and through!
So here is a belated birthday shout out to my sister-in-law Abby, may we continue to play games together for many years to come and teach our children the love of games and playing together.