Not my Birthday

Life sometimes takes us to strange places, ground we were sure we would never have to tread upon.

For the first time ever, I played Magic the Gathering outside of our home.

“How did this happen?” I asked myself several times during the tournament surrounded by men speaking a foreign language recognizable only to other serious players.

A few years ago, my husband and I decided that instead of gifts for birthdays to clutter our already cluttered home, we would give “experiences”. Usually this amounts to a trip somewhere with something we think the birthday kid will enjoy. This year’s offerings were a 1st concert, a day trip to NYC for the Empire State Building and a Broadway show culminating in dinner at Guy’s restaurant, and a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge.  After they complete a quest and put together a puzzle, the birthday boy gets to choose which parent he wants to accompany him. It’s a great opportunity to spend one-on-one time with the minions and get to introduce them to something we enjoy or we think they will or just experience something new together.

My husband’s birthday was last week. For his gift, the boys and I decided to pack him off to the TCG State Championship. Half-jokingly, my tallest (who also happens to play MTG competitively) asked my husband who he was taking. He quickly said, “Mom.”

I laughed.

I stopped as the boys excitedly turned to me.

I tried not to panic.

Early in our marriage, I decided that my husband and I needed to share some common ground outside of our children. Since he’s not down with the scrapbooking or cross-stitching, I picked up a controller and learned to hold my own in his favorite games. Now that the kids are older, they think it’s cool when I join them killing grunts or fight in epic Jedi vs Sith battles on Battlefront 2. I have my own Yugioh deck and now I have a modern MTG deck as well. But the problem is that I don’t play anything very often.

And I really don’t like situations where I don’t know what to expect and everyone else in the room does. I despise being ignorant and vulnerable in a big group of strangers. I’m funny that way.

But every spare moment in the two days between my husband’s birthday and the tournament was spent absorbing the rules and customs of MTG and telling myself that I was doing this because I love him. My understanding of the game is sparse, bare-minimum. My tutelage was like trying to catch fish with a hula hoop− information goes in, flops around frantically, and then swims away happily, leaving me staring in confusion, often certain I had something a second ago.

I knew it was going to be a slaughter.

I was right.

"What's that say?"

“What’s that say again?”

So there I was, sitting across from an opponent who really wants to win and is totally willing to go through me to get there. The only thing in his way was a borrowed deck that I didn’t know how to play, a very pretty (but hardly intimidating) playmat, and a sparkly dice. The most common phrases heard by my opponents: “Ummm, I’m gonna have to read that …” along with “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” I imagine that gets annoying for men who have these cards, their abilities memorized, and cash on the line.

Much to everyone’s surprise, I did win 2 hands−just not against the same opponent.

I’m also pretty sure the last guy who sat across from me cheated after I won the first round. I’d like to gird up some righteous anger (and I admit that I was very tempted to call the judge to count his side-deck), but I was there for fun. This is a big part of his life. I get that he didn’t want to lose to me of all people.

The end result was a kid-free, slightly stressful day of fun, sharing something else with my best friend, and a better understanding of all of the card talk that dominates my dinner table. So worth it!

And for those of you wondering, the hubs ranked 9th! I was … barely not last and I’m pretty sure that’s only because someone left after their first round loss. At some point, I’m afraid I might have to go again  in order to redeem myself.

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