Our family, the bunch of Parcheesi-heads we are, hosted our second annual Parcheesi Tournament this past January in honor of my late grandmother, Carlota, aka Mamita. (See this post with my tribute to Mamita and her love of Parcheesi.) It was a blast, filled with laughter, yelling, neck wringing, and tons of food. It was also great to see the tournament expand from the previous year with four additional players, some of whom were quite new to the game but still played remarkably well.
This year, we introduced the “Stanley Cup” of our Parcheesi Tournament: The Golden Caldero. The caldero is probably the most important piece of cookware in the Puerto Rican kitchen: it’s the cast-iron pot in which the rice and beans are cooked, among several other Latin delicacies. My brother-in-law had a small caldero painted gold and mounted onto a trophy plaque. The name of last year’s winner, Willie, is now etched onto the plaque, basking in everlasting Parcheesi glory. Each year, the new tournament winner’s name will be added. We even started a new tradition of announcing the start of a new round of games by “ringing” the caldero with a spoon. It’s quite a raucous, attention-grabbing sound.
I’m proud to say that I won the very first game of the day, in a decidedly quick and bloody match. *Pats self on back.* Unfortunately, that was just about all the winning I had for the whole tournament. I may love the game and know all the good key strategies, but I usually end up getting slaughtered. I generally blame bad luck, and getting ganged up on because I get too aggressive too soon in the game. Yeah, yeah… that’s what it is. *shrug*
In the second game I played, my father won before anyone else got a single one of their pieces home. A complete, full-blown shutout. When someone has no pieces home when the game is won, it is said that you “got chiva.” (Chiva is the Spanish word for a female goat, and it can also be slang for marijuana or heroine. Don’t ask me, I didn’t coin the term. ) Dad was pretty darn proud of himself for that one, pointing his finger at each of his defeated opponents and badgering them. “Holy Toledo! You all got chiva! You? Chiva! You? Chiva! You? You got chiva, too! Chiva! Chiva! CHIVA! Ah-OOOOOOO!”
It wouldn’t be a proper Parcheesi tournament if it didn’t have a whole lot of bridges, and this year was no exception. (Note the wear and tear on the board on the left. This is my family’s beloved original Parcheesi board from the 70′s. It has been through a lot. It’s barely in one piece, and the box is covered in duct tape so it doesn’t fall apart.)
After the preliminary qualifying games, we were down to our four finalists: my brothers-in-law Pete and Jim (left and right respectively), my father Frank (center), and my cousin’s daughters Kristina and Lauren (who played as a team throughout the day, though they each proved worthy of playing for themselves next year).
The end of the last game was a serious nail-biter. Everyone had their first three men home already, and all but one player had their fourth and final piece in the home stretch, just needing that one perfect roll of the dice to win the game. Turn after turn, ’round and ’round the table, with no one getting that desperately needed die. My father finally rolled the two he needed and won the tournament.
Congratulations Dad! Your name shall take its eternal place upon the plaque of The Golden Caldero (and now we all know exactly who to plot against next year. ).
Here’s to you, Mamita. Hopefully you’re gazing upon us with a great big smile, watching the bridges we build in your honor, and salivating over all the ¡COMIDA! Miss you. xoxo