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By PAT BURROUGHS
Thinking about the Murrah Building bombing always brings to mind our youngest granddaughter, Camden, whose (future) dad missed being in that disaster only because he received a phone call that made him five minutes late for an appointment there. Camden was born exactly four years later on Jan. 19, 1999. We think of her as our miracle child because she almost didn’t happen.
June, 2006: We had arrived at a good campsite on Fort Gibson Lake on Wednesday and Sandy, Steve, and Camden came down to be with us on Friday after work. They had been able to reserve a camping space, but it was a good bike ride away from where we were set up.
Cami rode her bike down to see us about the time we were finishing breakfast Saturday morning. She said she had eaten breakfast, but could be persuaded to eat a bowl of Fruit Loops and drink a glass of chocolate milk. I had made popsicles with red Kool-aid and put them in the freezer the night before. Cami checked them out and pointed out that they were frozen and ready to eat.At that she said she was going “home” for a minute and left. A few minutes later she was back. She came into our trailer and plopped down on one side of the dinette table. “Mamaw, will you play dominoes with me?”
“We only have double nines. They’re really hard to play. Even Papaw, who was a math major in college, doesn’t like to play them.”
“Oh, I’ve played them before. No problem,” she said as she dumped them out on the table and turned all the dots to the bottom side.
I expected a short game, ending when she realized she was in over her head. True, it might give me a chance to actually win a game, even if it was against a first-grader. I can add, but have never been that great at dominoes.
We drew for down and Cami won. She put down a six-four and I marked her down a ten, then played my four-one, the only one I could play.
“I forget,” Cami said. “How do we keep score?”
“It has to be divisible by 5, like 10, 15, etc.”
“Oh, then is it okay if I make 20?” she asked cockily as she plunked down the right domino.
From there it was all downhill for me. Cami is a singer. She sings all the time. She knows every song from every movie she’s ever watched, and loves to sing them. I’m not complaining, understand. She’s an amazing singer. But it can be a bit distracting when you’re playing dominoes.
She’s seven already, but was a bit late losing her baby teeth. The four upper front teeth all left at the same time, and now when she opens her mouth it’s like seeing a two-car garage with the door open. It doesn’t distract a mite from her charm, but allows her to practice another one of her skills–whistling. She’s the only person I ever knew who could whistle one tune through the garage door and hum a different tune at the same time.
I played again—the only thing I could play. No score. “Mamaw, I wish you’d hurry up and score. This is getting boring,” she said as she plunked down another 15-pointer. That didn’t do much to help my disposition.
“I’ll be right back. I’m going home for my pillow,” she said, as she hopped out the door. In a minute she was back with her red-cased pillow, which she placed on the dinette seat. She lay down on the pillow on her back, kicking her feet in the air and twiddling with the mini blind cord, while belting out another hit. I told her it was her play. She dropped the cord, peeked over the edge of the table, snatched a domino, and slammed it down on the table. “Thirty points, please.” I played again, actually ringing up 20 points.
Now she was singing again—opera. I didn’t recognize the song, but then I don’t listen to opera if I can help it. At this point she had built a house with her dominoes. I reminded her that it was her play again. She reluctantly stole a piece of the roof and slid it into place. “How much did you make?” I asked. “How much is eight and seven?”
Sounding insulted, she said, “Well, that and the OTHER five on the board makes 20!” She was right, of course. The score at this point was 220 Cami, 140 me. I was feeling two notches below humiliated.
Finally, Papaw to the rescue. He had been to town and came back with a box of popsicles. “Somebody has to eat the red popsicles in the freezer before I can get these in,” he said.
Cami didn’t waste any time volunteering. She sat concentrating on eating her popsicle, wiping drips from her chin on a paper towel, and basically ignoring the dominoes. I kept telling her, “Cami, I’m catching up with you. You have to concentrate if you want to win.”
“Well,” she said happily, “Daddy says it’s not about winning. It’s about playing.”
She didn’t make another point and I beat her to 250, the stopping point. I don’t know if she lost interest, if the popsicle was too much of a distraction, or if she couldn’t think well because she couldn’t eat popsicles and sing at the same time. In any case, in the future, anytime I plan to play a game of dominoes with a kid, I intend to have plenty of popsicles on hand in case I’m getting too far behind. Goodness knows I need all the help I can get.
April 2021: Cami is graduating from OU on May 16th with a degree in architectural engineering. Kids can learn a lot playing dominoes. But I haven’t heard her sing in years. I miss it.