Scrabble board

a dork board if ever i saw one

T

here’s nothing like a game of Scrabble to start me thinking magically.

It’s always been like this—as long as I’ve been paying attention, at least. I grab my seven tiles out of the velvet bag, line them up in front of me and look at all of the almost-words. Words that would win the game for me if only I had a ‘U’ or a ‘B’ or a ‘Q,’ but I don’t have any one of them.

I assumed at some point that because I like to read, because I know some words, I would be great at Scrabble. It would be my game.

It is not my game, however. To win at Scrabble, you have to be realist. Players who win at Scrabble do not become mired in the muck of what their letters might have been. They work with what they have. They do not look longingly at the person to their right and think how great it would be if they’d gotten the diamond instead of the 9-year-old who cannot spell the word ‘divot.’ No. Scrabble victors have looked at their seven letters from the start of the game and asked themselves, ‘What can I spell with this Cyrillic-looking mess?’

The first time I played Scrabble with my husband-to-be, I wanted to throw a drink on him. I thought we had come to the table to drink wine and build beautiful words. I was mistaken. One of us had come to do those things, foregoing turns in the hopes of fishing out that one elusive letter that would make an important, significant, impressive word—the kind of word that, while rewarding just in its creation, would also win the game in a just and righteous way.

The other one of us had come to win.

My opponent didn’t give up a turn on the off-chance that there could be a ‘Q’ in his future. He was a pragmatist. He built infantile, four-letter words—none of which I can call to mind exactly right now, but trust me, they were dumb—and he won with them. If fortune offered him not a single vowel, that was alright; he’d just find a way to mooch off of yours. He played Scrabble like each and every one of us needs to live our lives—furiously and with the greatest appreciation (and implementation) of what we’ve been given.

But this one time, I watched him put the word ‘grimoire’ onto a board. That was when I knew that sometimes the real voodoo is called up when you make something—anything—and you’re so deliberate in just the work of it that you create something that surprises yourself and all of the other 9-year-olds at the table.

Magical thinking is for babies and for people who want to lose at Scrabble.

Start spelling.