We played our own brand of team games that St. Patrick’s Day evening.
Young parents, all friends from church, our many kids were long since tucked in at our homes by an undoubtedly exhausted team of babysitters in our employ so we could cut loose for just one night.
A large group of close couple friends, and at the time, the most irreverent collective our conservative church could tolerate, we usually pushed the limits of propriety, narrowly escaping chastisement the following Sunday morning, a public lynching or otherwise excommunication.
Tonight, the pastor and his wife had been invited to our coven.
Terry, the unofficial ringleader, had opened game night with her native Irish menu. I don’t recall if we drank beer that evening under the excuse of it being the holiday it was, but if we hadn’t, the atmosphere we had created without it was nonetheless pub-like.
Potato bowling: pantyhose tied around the waist, the feet of which held bowling ball sized spuds swinging hands-free, between the legs on linoleum alley of her kitchen. Gyrating, pelvic-thrusting potato-bowling parents, all of us, that early evening, full of corned beef and cabbage and probably beer. It was clear the pastor and his wife were going to be part of our secret society from now on, or we’d have to kill them.
The ten-pin potato tournament awarded prizes and game night progressed to Team Dictionary. Scouring the Merriam-Webster for the most obscure of words for the one the opposition would certainly have no clue to its meaning, all had to submit guesses. “YONI” was redefined that night as a “japanese home perm.” “SHAGANAPPI” was a show-stopper, though. One response was so off-color, politically incorrect and so damn funny, the entire crowd had a matrix moment where time seemed to stand still for a full 20 minutes or more of deafening teary-eyed laughter and probably more beer. The women peed themselves. The guys were wet with tears. We were all glad our babysitters couldn’t see us because they would have taken our children to safety or CPS.
It was clear we all needed this night.
The Irish hostess and her husband were not finished though.
Team Pictionary, if you remember the game, is one in which a word is given to one person, (in this team event, two,) each the round leader of his own team huddled in the furthest most corners of the host’s large living room. The object was to race back to their team’s giant easel of oversized paper with the same word and a bold sharpie. Our kids’ Valentines Day cards still proudly posted on our home refrigerators, were Monet’s in comparison to the drawings we silently but hastily produced to summon the correct answer from each of our two teams.
For this particular round, I was my team’s leader.
So far, it had become a close and fierce competition. I think the winning team got the leftovers from dinner, making it all out war. I and my counterpart from the other team stood in the middle of the room with the word-giver and judge who very quietly turned over the card to the two of us , revealing the tie-breaking word each of us was to illustrate. We raced over furniture and around tables back to our teams in opposite corners of the room and began drawing.
Furiously, I drew pictures to describe the word I’d seen on the card. Across the room, the other leader was doing the same for his team. We could hear the guesses of the opposing teams across the room as the leaders drew pictures designed to elicit the winning response and guarantee tomorrow night’s dinner to the victory team.
But something was obviously and terribly wrong.
Both teams screamed single word guesses into the charged air like popcorn without a lid. Though not able to see their drawings, we could easily hear their guesses from way over there. And they could hear ours.
“Worship,” “Reverence,” “Holy” and other words of divinity rose from their group as their still-drawing leader sought to create the picture for his team that would end game night for all of us.
My group, however, spewed forth utterances like “Butt,” “Ass,” “Penis,” “Vagina” and much worse, like a George Carlin monologue.
Across the room, they shouted: “Angel!”
Our group:“Dick and balls!”
Their group: “Godly!”
This exchange went on for much too long, but long enough for some increasingly curious glances across the room and jaw-dropping looks across the room from our pastor at his foul-mouthed wife on our team.
At points, there was a mutual silence as teams could only stare across the room, away from the pictures their leaders had drawn, in disbelief that both teams were, indeed, pursuing the same given word.
We compared easel drawings.
The artist-leader on the opposing team had created elaborate pictorials of heavenly beings with heads and halos bowed in reverence, hoping his team would be the first to guess our given word “PROSTRATE.”
I had somehow misread the given word on that slowly revealed card at the very start.
Having missed that second “R” in PROSTRATE, I had eagerly drawn porn.
I had pictures of every imaginable genital in every position with little black arrows pointing to them as if these church people hadn’t seen porn once or twice already. I had been drawing a stick figure’s PROSTATE.
As if “Shaganappi” wasn’t enough, all of us lost it.
Most hadn’t even recovered from the physical effects of the earlier laughingstock and had the crowd been 20 years older at the time, ambulances would have been called that very moment.
I don’t know who walked away with the leftovers.
At the end of that evening, it really didn’t matter. We’d had our fill.
Still chuckling at the door, we said our goodbyes and insincere apologies to our friends and each couple and our newly inducted pastor and his wife, and drove home to get our babysitters back to theirs by midnight.
Even now while writing, I’m reminded that gatherings like this one from a St. Patrick’s day long ago are times of my life which can instantly transform even my gloomiest of days.
I imagine someday, on my death bed, whomever remains from the fun group that night, may come to my side and lieu of a soft goodbye, will simply say “shaganappi” as their farewell.
And I will die laughing.