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Before Wordle

My grandmother instilled in me a love of word games.

By Cheryl WrayPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
Before Wordle
Photo by Moritz Schmidt on Unsplash

Before Wordle there was Scrabble with my grandmother.

In fact, I credit Grandma Sloan for my love of Wordle and every other word game that’s come before it.

My grandmother lived in a small, hot east Texas town; she raised six children, cooked a lot of beans and cornbread, and stretched a dollar as far as it could go. She and my grandfather weren’t rich, and Grandma didn’t have a high school education–but she had a love of words and knowledge that made its way into the lives of her children and their children.

Some of my fondest and most vivid memories come from the lazy post-holiday evenings in her kitchen. She would have just cleaned up from dinner, or would be icing her signature German chocolate cake with its delicious coconut frosting, and we’d beg her to pull away from her chores and join us at the kitchen table.

Gathered around the table were three of her sons and their wives–all of them professionals who somehow had grown up to be purveyors of words (two English literature professors, a journalism professor, a high school English teacher, a media director at a small college)--and me, a child of 10 who always pushed her way into one of the rickety chairs and begged to join the game of Scrabble.

Grandma would wipe her hands on her dishtowel, say she should really stay in the kitchen, but then join us at the Scrabble board.

She’d think long and hard about her words, but always competed well with her college-educated children; she won occasionally, smiling at their surprise. They soon learned not to underestimate her, and I loved to see her win.

My parents and aunts and uncles indulged me, I believe, and would have rather had me in the living room watching television with my cousins or reading quietly in the corner. Grandma, though, always welcomed me to the table. Perhaps she knew what it meant to be misjudged, to be the victim of unwarranted scrutiny, to be thought a little less of.

We bonded because of that, and on the rare occasion that I’d outwit the intellectual adults in the room–she’d give me a knowing small and clap a happy clap for me.

Those nights around the table forged a love of word games that seeped into other parts of my life, and that strongly resound still in my memories.

While other kids played the license plate game while on road trips, my parents (the journalism professor and high school English teacher) engaged my brother and I in spelling contests. They also instituted “writing hours” in our home, when we had to stop all other activities and instead focus on writing (a story, a diary entry, anything). We couldn't’ wait for the Reader’s Digest magazine to arrive in the mail so that we could challenge each other with its “Build a Better Vocabulary” quiz.

And then, of course, there were the games.

We played all manner of word games in our house…Upwords, Boggle, Scrabble, and a variety of homegrown and original games of which even now I can remember the too-complicated rules.

I’ve passed the love of games down to my children, and my family has spent many afternoons and evenings playing (my favorite) Scrabble. My husband isn’t much of a fan, always gravitating more naturally to Monopoly or chess. But he knows I love it, and he and our daughters have indulged me on many occasions.

It was no surprise, then, that I got hooked on Wordle as soon as it appeared. It and other online word games capture my imagination and help keep my brain smart. (In fact, I’m relying on them to keep me mentally strong and to live longer.)

I can only imagine that my Grandma would have loved Wordle as well.

She didn’t live to see the advent of smartphones, but I can picture her on one–working hard to figure out the 5-letter word answer. I’m assured that she’d work most of the puzzles quickly and proficiently.

I have no doubt that she would have been the queen of the game.


About the Creator

Cheryl Wray

I'm a trained journalist who now dreams of writing fiction.

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