Table game traditions cultivate togetherness

Published 4:55 pm Thursday, August 10, 2023

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Two Andalusia sisters, Emma Cate and Maggie Jernigan, compete each year in the annual World Championship Domino Tournament. They learned to play from their father, T.J. Jernigan, who was taught by his father, Georgiana native James Jernigan.

The girls placed first in their age division at the 47th annual tournament this year. Their mom, Jodie Jernigan, shared the news with our staff, so that we could publish a story that would raise awareness for the family’s favorite pastime, and the tournament which also supports philanthropic efforts of the Andalusia Rotary Club.

While writing their story, I reflected on my own family’s table-game-playing tradition.

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Our family loved playing games together when I was a little girl. My sister and I each received new games at Christmas and looked forward with great anticipation to playing them together.

Those lazy Saturday-afternoon game sessions were one of the few activities our family of four enjoyed together. In his later years, Dad would get mad and stop playing if he lost, but those games still represent some of my warmest, fondest memories.

As a young boy, my father loved to play marbles. His family didn’t have much money and he made most of his own toys, but Dad did have a set of milky glass marbles. They became mine when he died and now they belong to my daughter, who is a counselor and keeps them in a box labeled, “I can help you find your marbles.”

Writing the Jernigan’s story, I could smell and feel my own childhood set of “Double Nine” dominoes. My daughter has those now too and has her own fond memories of playing with them.

Table games brought our family together, when I was a child and later when I had children of my own. We gathered around the coffee table and laughed until it felt as if our sides would split. Someone would inevitably become frustrated and stop playing, but it was still some of the most fun I can remember.

Our modern world contains new, electronic pastimes. I watch families sit around a living room, each one looking at their smartphones, and wonder if or when they find time to cultivate the closeness games developed in our family.

I’m so glad to know that some families, like the Jernigans, carry on the tradition of playing dominoes together. May their story inspire us all to seek out ways to be present and cultivate the same togetherness they have found by playing dominoes.