Pulling Plumpy

A COVID-era perspective on the family board game

Like many other families in quarantine, we’ve pulled out a lot of board and card games lately to try to stem the ever-present easy tug of screens. One evening we were playing Candyland, and my 4-year-daughter, Lark, pulled the “Plumpy” card when she was about 10 moves away from winning, sending her back to the beginning of the game-board.

“I hate this game!” she raged, throwing the Plumpy card onto the ground.

“Lark, it’s just a game. It’s not a big deal…”

“Yes, it is! I want to win! Now I have to go all the way back to the beginning!”

“But you never know what will happen next…and, besides, you won the last game…”

“I want to win this game!”

“Well, that’s not fair to the rest of us. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”

“I’m never playing this game again! I hate Candyland!” and she stormed out of them room.

Image credit: rachelmariestone.com

I spent the evening feeling like I hadn’t done a very good job of parenting. Losing was part of life, and my kid was a poor sport. How was I going to teach her to be graceful loser, or at least not to take these family board games so seriously?

Let’s be honest, though. Pulling plumpy sucks. There is no way around it. You think you are doing well in one spot, possibly even winning, and the next second you are way back at the beginning of the game with a whole different outlook on the candy world around you and your place within it.

And unfortunately, “pulling plumpy” is something that continues to happen to us in life outside of the innocent board game. In some ways, don’t we all feel like we just “pulled plumpy” with this global pandemic?

Before Covid-19, my most recent “pulling plumpy” moment was in 2019 when I had a rare reaction to an antibiotic that triggered a systemic autoimmune reaction from which I am still trying to recover. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was bad luck. Pulling plumpy.

I’m sure you can think of a “pulling plumpy” moment in your own life. You injure yourself before a huge sporting event for which you have been training for years. Pulling plumpy.

Your best friend’s family has to move across the country. Pulling plumpy.

You suddenly get laid off from your job. Pulling plumpy.

A global pandemic rages across the globe and locks the rest of us in quarantine indefinitely. Travel cancelled. Plans changed. Structures upended. Our favorite places closed. Paychecks stopped. Shelves bare. Our friends and family kept away. Pulling plumpy.

And honestly, I’m not much cooler and calmer than my 4-year-old daughter. I’ve had my moments. I’ve yelled at my kids and cried taking the garbage out in the dark, hoping no one can hear or see me. I’ve had shaking “I-can’t-keep-this-up” moments after a string of days where I haven’t had a single moment to myself. I’ve cursed in the 4th grocery I tried only to find the flour shelves bare.

I fucking hate Candyland.

The other day I was cleaning up in the yard and noticed green shoots pushing through the ground in places where I had no idea that there had been anything living. The snow had retreated leaving bare brown dirt, and then suddenly life began to emerge. As I cleared the dead leaf litter from around the green shoots, I thought about how amazing it is that these plants have found a way to stay alive deep under the cold ground all winter. In a way, they had been in a type of self-quarantine, alone but safe, waiting for signs that it was safe to come out and grow again.

When I am not having privileged-tantrums about no personal time, space or the right groceries, I think about the people yesterday, today, and tomorrow who are dying of Covid-19. The people who are going to have to be removed from ventilators to make room for younger patients because there isn’t enough equipment to give everyone their full opportunity to survive. The people who live alone and get sick and never make it to a hospital to receive care. The people whose lungs are more susceptible because they already were victims of environmental injustice, living in areas with poor air quality. The people who are not given a second chance. The people who are no longer going to be on the game-board.

Some people are really upset about the social distancing, about the effects on the economy, and about the inconvenience of it all. But, for those of us who are not gravely ill, or worse, I think we all have to keep in mind how lucky we are to have just “pulled plumpy.”

No matter how hard it is now, we aren’t out of the game, and we still have a chance to move forward again. We still have our roots, and we can push through the dirt when the timing is right.

Writer, editor, mom, loss mom, and big fan of science. Full Profile on LinkedIn.

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