Yes, I am writing a short story about the game of bingo but it is not what you might think it is. Yes, it has daubers, bingo papers, the caller, hot dogs, chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, and of course the prizes. Yes, it has excited ladies and a few men wishing and hoping to shout out the word, “Bingo!” And yes, it has a moan and a few groans, along with statements like, ” I was waiting for that number!” ” That is a lucky table.” ” He is calling the numbers too, fast. Slow down!”
The above is a short story about what you might see at a weekly bingo game or a holiday bingo. However, there is so much more to the game; how it brings people together and what winning means to those attending.
Before the story, a little disclaimer…….
I must be honest and tell you, dear readers, that I am not a fan of bingo. I am aware that many men and women love the game and attend several games weekly, however, it is way too long for me to sit. I often find my mind meandering about a new story or the things I should be doing at home.
A little background……..
I have been helping the Ladies Auxiliary of the Washington Township Volunteer Fire company with their holiday bingo for a few years now. My mom was president of the auxiliary for many, many years and so, before her illness, I joined as a social member to help out. After her death, I remained because that is where I feel extremely close to her.
Before the game……….
Before the game actually started, different tickets were sold as additional ways of earning money for the firehouse. That is where I come in. I sold the Tricky Tray tickets. Tricky Tray baskets were donated by many of the ladies and local businesses and are filled to the brim with beautiful items, wrapped with clear cellophane, and topped with a colorful bow. The baskets sit like soldiers waiting for the bingo players to carefully examine their contents before they continue searching for just the one that is calling their name. This past November, we were pleased to present 29 baskets.
I also sold the tickets for the huge, food basket that no one could lift! This year all the ticket money was donated to the American Cancer Society. We as a group decided to donate the money in memory of three of our beautiful ladies who had passed this year. My heart was touched by the generosity of those who bought tickets or gave a donation for this good cause. In fact, the winning ticket was held by a daughter of Sheilla Transue, a precious woman who passed from cancer in May. Sheilla was also my cousin.
I love to listen to people as I walked past them or when I sold tickets. I also like to look at their faces. I always learn so much from people’s eyes and tone of voice. Even sitting waiting for the games to start, the conversations around me, intrigued me. For most people, playing bingo is a few hours of getting away, to have fun, to meet up with friends they have not seen in a while. Of course, all the players hoped they would win, but to some, it was an answer to prayer.
Get your daubers ready!……
It was time! The caller was ready, the balls were popping like popcorn in the enclosed case, as the players appeared anxious to get the games started. I made my way back to my place at the table; the exact place where my mom sat just a few years ago, I noticed a sea of colorful daubers, top off, and ready to go. I also noticed the chatter of anticipation, ” I hope I win today. It sure would come in handy.” Then in another direction, a voice of an older gal who looked at her friend and said, ” Thank you for buying my ticket. It’s nice to just get out for a while.”
The games began and my restlessness started as my thoughts traveled to Mom and her love of the game. I smiled as I thought back to her determination to mark each spot without help. At that moment, my sister, Emma’s voice brought me back as she reminded me of a number that was just called. Oh dear, I am already antsy and only four numbers had been called. So, I did what I do best, observed those around me and listened. As my eyes scanned, I saw ladies concentrating on the game. I also noticed the firemen walking around, ready to read the bingo numbers back to the caller. I saw people chewing gum, drinking soda and munching on chips. Then, before I knew it, I heard, ” Bingo!” I heard sighs and moans as the volunteer read the numbers back with all ears up as the caller said, ” That’s a good bingo!” Just at that very moment, in unison, I heard the bingo paper being ripped off the tablet of games and chatter; lots of chatter. Soon it was time for intermission and once again I sold the Tricky Tray and the huge food basket tickets. But, this time, someone touched my heart with her generosity. As I sat and watched the ladies taking one more look at all the baskets, I noticed an older woman looking very carefully at each basket taking her time, checking out every item in the basket. Soon she stood in front of the food basket and her eyes welled up with tears. She looked at me and said, “My sister passed from cancer and I miss her so much.” This sweet woman tickled my heart, and I felt her pain as she told me a little more about her sister. She bought twenty dollars worth of tickets and gave another twenty as a donation. That precious woman told me instead of buying Tricky Tray tickets she wanted to help make a difference, so she donated what money she had in her wallet. I smiled and thanked her for her gift.
Two more ladies bought Tricky Tray tickets. I always liked to talk to everyone that came my way and I learned that one of the ladies had just lost her husband and her friend insisted that she come along; you know to get her out of the house for a bit. I smiled and thought to myself, “What a good friend.” Soon the caller yelled, “Bingo will start in a few minutes.” As I walked back to my seat, I thought about all the ladies and men who walked through the front door to enjoy a nice afternoon then, I thought about the hard-working women who put the bingo together. These sweet, hard-working women gave their time and talents to raise money to help the volunteer firemen buy needed equipment and to help them continue to take classes on fighting fires and educating adults and children on fire safety. I must say, several of our ladies are well into their senior years and still they continue to do what they have done for many years; give of their precious time.
The chatter got louder and I heard a lot of laughter coming from a table on the other side of the room. Wished I knew what was so funny. I started to squirm and silently prayed that the games would go quickly. Suddenly, I heard, ” B 12″ and the room went silent. Once again, my sense of hearing was on alert. This time, it seemed like everyone was whispering. I wanted to shout, “Please speak up! I want to know what you are thinking, what are you are feeling. Please speak up!” Soon the time came for giving out of the Tricky Tray baskets. Several of us took turns carrying the baskets while the bingo caller, called the lucky winner. As I carried one of the baskets, I noticed the winner smiling. She was so happy! I heard her say that she had put all of her tickets into that particular container. Her daughter would be so happy. It would be her Christmas present. I thought, ” How sweet.” Finally, the baskets were given out and the games began again. The conversations seemed to match the first half of the games. Soon the last game, Cover-All, started. It was a killer for me since it took so long to play. Every spot had to be covered. Finally, I heard two ladies yell, ” Bingo.” The numbers were called back and both were good games. “Whew, I had made it!” As I walked up through the aisle to start cleaning up the tables, I overheard one of the winners say, ” I can’t believe I won over a hundred dollars. I can really use it.” I smiled and was very happy for the elderly woman walking with a cane. Everyone who passed me smiled. I smiled back and asked if they had a good time and the reply was, ” Yes, it was wonderful. It made my day! Can’t wait for the next one!”
My heartfelt thoughts…….
Bingo, the game of chance is so much more than a chance. It is a game that gets people out of their routine for an afternoon. For some, they can escape the pain of loss, whether of a loved one or a relationship that is not working or, an illness they may be facing. But more than any reason is the generosity of each player who bought a ticket, extra boards, or a Tricky Tray chance. Each dollar spent symbolizes a grateful heart that helps all members of the community through their support of the volunteer firemen who work so hard to keep everyone safe. I am reminded of my favorite saying, ” When we help others we help ourselves.” I believe that is true of bingo players who graciously gave from their hearts to keep the memory of three beautiful precious women who lost their lives to cancer. And to those who brought out their neighbor or a friend just for a change of scenery, you are a giver of hope; hope for a happy carefree day. As for me, the antsy, people observer, I look forward to autumn and the next Bingo game.