My mother created goals all her own, sometimes even contradictory to the point of the game, such as her attempts to create a rainbow, gathering as many different coloured properties as possible—unhelpful, for sure, but still, manageable—she was, after all, only one quarter of the gaming whole. Dad did his best, but was too soft of heart. He had too much love for everyone around the table to make the necessary moves, purposely not buying properties that might disrupt the property set of another, and always taking far too little money from any other buyers looking to acquire his existing properties, sometimes even losing money. E hika!
It has to be said, this is not the only aspect to his nature: if you’ve ever had the experience (some may say the misfortune) of engaging in any competitive pastime with my elder sister or I, you’ll know we become a whole other beast, cut-throat and mulish. And this āhuatanga (feature) of ours came from our father, who once punched a member of his own rugby team for not playing well enough in an important match. This was his BC (Before Christ) life, obviously. But that specific apple fell right up and close to the tree. Hold that in mind as we return to the game: my elder sister, who was already showing the exacting monetary awareness that now has her working as an accountant, was swift as she was ruthless in her circumnavigation of the board, shamelessly undercutting our father in her monopolizing quest. She was a tidal wave of intellect and brutal persistence. The only flimsy wall of sandbags between her and imminent victory was me, three years her junior and doing my utmost.
Depending on the way the dice fell, it could really go either way. We would leave Māmā to her own devices (although occasionally she could be bargained with: if, in taking away colours from her rainbow, you could offer her another new and therefore desirable hue, useful trade was possible). Father would offer me the same inordinately low rates as my sister demanded, and so the four quadrants of the game, of our family, would teeter and totter, but they would always, eventually, balance each other out.
Dad would almost never win—no shock there, Pāpā, with too much love for his own good. Mum rarely won, only if her rainbow goal somehow successfully subverted the play of my sister and I, and we landed on her real estate enough. Oftentimes, my sister or I would have to alert her to the fact with a “it’s finished, you’ve won”. Even then, the only thing that would only matter to her was how successful she’d been in her own personal plan—Māmā, the most wonderful maverick. Sissy won most regularly. And every now and again, and no less significantly, I would walk victorious from the gaming table.
In the course of time, things changed as new members joined our whanau—my excellent brother-in-law Sean—or were lost, beautiful Māmā. Eventually, Fleet Street and Marleybone Station would see no new patrons.
Our whānau continued other Christmas traditions. Mum would, for a while, dutifully turn our whare (home) into a Christmas light extravaganza, dangerously employing neighbouring kids to run fairy lights all over the roof. We would go to the infamous Plover Place (anyone from the Tauranga area will know) to admire the Christmas lights and horde handfuls of candy from the homes that were all vying to be the most festive. But monopoly would be lost to the annals of memory. Mum truly did try her best to keep the tradition alive, buying novel versions of the game for the whānau. The credit card one brought sufficient novelty to draw a couple of plays, but the bleeps of the card machine most commonly heralded the transfer of too much money from any number of players to my sister. She’s good at the game and she deserves to win. But how often does anyone want to engage in a losing game? I’ll tell you now, the answer is not much and eventually never.
The advent season is one of many traditions observed in the many iterations of the local church, in households around Aotearoa and those areas of the world where people celebrate the coming of Jesus on what has become a hideously over-commercialised day of the year. But traditions are beautiful, they can serve to hold and preserve the mauri and wairua of a season, a time and even a space. My whānau and I—and I hope all of us—hold fast to the precious goodness of tradition. We always find our way back to the table to share a boardgame or some onion dip. Our whānau tradition of monopoly sadly has been lost, but it is there to be revived. My family imply, not so subtly, that if I were to add my own significant other to the table, maybe things might balance out; we wait in (mostly) patient hope for that day. Praise the Lord. One day I will delight with my children over, most likely, the Harry Potter version of Monopoly, and taste again the sweetness of this tradition.
May the many traditions of your whānau be blessed. May the players at your table be blessed. May old traditions be revived in new generations. May old traditions be continued strengthened and built upon. Whatever traditions lie between you, your household or whanau, and the lighting of the candle of peace or the transition of your calendar to December 25th, may the fullness of those traditions be blessed richly.