The Deck of Cards
When I was a little girl we lived very close to Foster Beach in Chicago. We went there so often that it seemed like our backyard. I remember being very joyful and playing there. I remember picking many many yellow flowers from the lawn and giving them to my mother.
When I was a little older we moved and then we lived close to Loyola Beach. Again, here is where we spent most of our free hours in good weather. We would take family with us when they came from Iran.
One day we met at the beach with a big group of family, many of them were from out of town. We picnicked on the grass of this long expanse of public beach. I remember wondering where my father and most of the men of our group had disappeared to, and in the nimble way of my seven year old self. I quietly snuck around to find them.
Finally, they appeared a small group of them behind a bunch of scraggly bushes. They were squatting on the ground, playing cards. I wondered to myself, “Why are they behind the bushes?” I asked my mom, it was because they were playing for money, and this ‘gambling’ was not allowed on our public beaches.
When I was little, my parents would often get together with other young persian families, sometimes they were our family and sometimes they were friends. For me they were an entire groups of Aunties and Uncles, I loved to be with them. Here my parents were like the other grown-ups. They were at ease, they were not lonely, they had friends, that looked like them, spoke like them. It was so very special for me, as I wandered around in smaller, apartment spaces, then larger homes, as the families grew wealthier. One thing I remember very fondly were the card games. Inevitably, at every party, my father would finally, get together to play cards. It was very grown-up. It was what the men would do. Rarely, would women play cards. As a little girl, I would sit at the card table, and one of my dad’s friends, or maybe my dad, might ask me to sit next to them for luck. And some of them, when they won, would joyfully give me a little of their money.
Women didn’t play cards and they didn’t smoke cigarettes either. Women didn’t play cards except for my very sophistocated grandma, who played cards regularly with her women friends. Grandma baked great, melt in your mouth, butter cookies with chocolate chips on them and the most fantastic persian rice dishes, sometimes for forty, in her very very tiny kitchen in her and my grandfather’s apartment in queens, and grandma played cards. My grandfather would somehow disappear and we would be sent away and grandma set up a card table in her living room and her very sophisticated women friends would come to play cards. Some of them smoked. The ladies brought their teeth to these games, they seemed like serious players. The card playing part of my grandma’s life was very important to her, and for m,e she seemed to turn into someone else when she was getting ready to play. She seemed somehow more worldly.
Amoungst the flotsum and jetsom of the deluge that mass media produced post 911, were a real gem, the bicycle brand,
This is how the print on the package of playing cards looked like. I had wanted to include a scan of these card in this article, but I knew I would need copyright, so a description will have to do.
I pick up the box of cards, they are still practically brand new. I love the feel of them in my hands, the soft glossy thick paper cardboard box so perfectly rectangular. The box is printed in chamouflage, light green with brown and green designs on them. On the face of the box are the above words. On the long side of the box, is printed,
The United States Playing Card Company
On the backside of the box are these words
THE (these next words are obstructed by a the seal that closes the box, that says, USA, HOYLE PRODUCTS, Cincinnati, OH), and then, PLAYING CARD …..more words obstructed by the seal….TO PRESENT THE IRAQI MOST WANTED PLAYING CARD DECK, FIRST ISSUED BY THE DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY AND THE U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND IN IRAQ IN APRIL, 2003.
THIS FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL DECK INCLUDES ALL 52 WANTED IRAQI PERSONALITIES, PLUS THE TWO JOKERS FEATUREINGN THE FAMOUS HOYLE tm JOKER, AND IS SUITABLE FOR ALL CARD GAME.
Beneath these words are a small facsimilie of the cards, including the ace of spades which is has Saddam Hussein’s photograph on it.
I pick the box of card up and turn it in my hands. I have always love the feel of a new box of cards, so full of possibility, play, shuffling, building house card structures (footnote persian rugs, why easy to build house of cards). Throughout my life a box of cards has always had a special meaning. How you could always afford a new box of cards to do something with, decorate a funky origami lampshade…I have always love the shape and design of cards, rectangular with rounded edges, cardboard and plastic coated, the fantastic red pattern on the back, the fact that so many playing cards are used in the city of Las Vegas.
I open the box of cards. They have that same slithtey feel in my hands. The perfect fit in my light grasp, always ready for a fancy shuffle and flip. Left hand hold between thumb and forfinger, right hand hold between thumb and third and forth. Left hand grasping the card steady on the width, Right hand on the length slip sliding the cards stacked on each other in the left, up and down, ready for the deal or the shuffle. Then the shuffle, deck of cards in cradled in the left hand, the right hand lifting sections of cards and mixing them into the others, this is what the nice weight and plastic coating is for, I think to myself. I’ve got pretty agile card hands. So many card games played since childhood, games of solitare on the, on so many kinds of floors, I loved the bold red and black patterns as they took form, I played on beds…on kitchen tables, on persian rugs. The cards slip out of the box without me thinking about and the hands slither them around. We did magic trick with cards. I still remember a few.
And here in my hands are the audacious, Iraqi Most Wanted Playing Cards, The Bicycle company’s big fxxx you to me, after so many years of my loyalty to the brand. Yummy like food those cards were to me.
But this insult nothing like what the people who dealt with Patriot act confinement had to deal with. People whose lives were uprooted and terrorized by unfounded detainment. Me, I am hopefully protected by my US citizenship. My parents getting green card and citizenship at my early age, me born here. Oh, fxxx you, US. Thank you for the freedom and the insult. Thanks for promising it and taking it away.
I grew into an identity and then how you treat me is a betrayl of it. nations cannot be our homes, ever but somehow homeland, implies this, “backhome,” the way my mother said it refers to Iran, meant that some ‘where’ was home. And there wasn’t for me, or perhaps it is in some stretch of my imagination, and here, I cobble home together as well as an identity, always, picking and choosing meanings to situations, creating allegiances where by, like so many card hands that shift mid-game, with so many strategies to produce one result or another, and along needing, ‘luck’ at every turn.
The quickly changing, challenging roulette of the moment, margin living in the center, is my center, hold your hand close to your heart, hearts, hearts and spades. Put your heart out on your sleeve but keep it locked in a crystal cage living. Where winning is loosing and loosing is winning. In the always temporary hand where each card could be the joker, because of the way you decide to play it, living. Where it never really needs to matter cause you need to ramble, like the gambler, going, never home, holding, reading tells, telling tales, bluffing, till you let it go, and the walls fall down, and you lay down you hands, and promise you won’t be playing again, playing, praying, for the promise that you won’t have to play the game any longer and you wonder if after all, it