Playing the Right Hand - My Family Travels

Flying across the country doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, but for a twelve-year-old who’s never gone past the east coast, traveling out west was bigger than life. Over the course of ten days, we saw the hundreds of Elvis impersonators and showgirls thriving in Las Vegas, the history-filled layers stretching across the walls of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, the Caribbean blue waves dancing across Lake Powell, the mighty hoodoos piercing the sky in Bryce Canyon, the cleverly disguised wood remnants hiding in the Petrified Forest, and the playful rivers racing through Zion Canyon. Everywhere we went, I discovered another part of the country that I never knew could be as extraordinary in size, shape, and color.

Leaving was a difficult pill to swallow. I’d fallen in love with the life of an adventurer, but there were many journeys awaiting back home. Boarding the Philly-bound plane put a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth. The sweetness quickly disappeared with the pilot’s announcement. Due to an air conditioning malfunction, the plane would not be leaving anytime soon, canceling our flight. The next available departure for us would be a direct flight to Cincinnati at two in the morning. Seven hours later.

Being that there was nothing we could really do about it, we tried to keep ourselves busy during the eternal wait. Unfortunately, a dying family iPad does not make it an easy task. The only entertainment provided was the symphony of chimes and tunes played by the orchestra of wildly themed slot machines surrounding the perimeter. Eventually, my brother and I gave up on attempting to sleep on the ripped cushioning and metal shaped into airport chairs. We pulled out a beat up deck of cards. As effective as they were for the first twenty-two rounds of Go Fish, the source of leisure greatly decelerated in its whimsy.

During this time, our dad had joined us and began to play as well. Throughout the multiple rounds of the same games, he could tell we were bored. Completely abandoning the idea of yet another round, he asked us, “What do you guys want to play now?”

My younger brother declared the words we were both thinking: “Something new.”

Upon hearing his answer, my dad nodded in understanding. Pulling his carryon bag over to us, he proceeded to dump all of his change onto the floor. After splitting the coins up amongst the us, he dealt five cards to us. “I may not have proper chips, but I’m going to teach you guys poker like my dad taught me.”

For a few hours, my dad taught my brother and I how to place bets, how to look for certain types of hands, and how to bluff. Unfortunately, my poker face consisted of biting my lip and trying not to smile, so bluffing was not my forte. It didn’t lessen the enjoyment being shared between the three of us sprawled across the airport carpeting.

The end of our trip definitely did not go as anticipated, but I prefer to think of it like poker. There will be times where you’re dealt a hand that completely throws off your game. Nonetheless, you can always play the right hand to turn things around. It may not be the most traditional of metaphors, but it became an important part of that trip to me. It was was not planned like a sunrise above the Grand Canyon or steep hike up Bryce Canyon. It was the spontaneity of the moment that engraves it in my mind as memory I wouldn’t trade for the world.

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