I am a lucky girl. My two best friends from high school are still my best friends to this day. Where we used to hang out nearly every day, over the years that time has been cut back drastically, so we maybe see each other, all three of us, just a handful of times throughout the year. One of those times is to play bingo at the fall festival in our home town.
I played my first game of bingo there in the fall of 1996. How do I remember? Easy. You have to be 16 to play so that was my first year being old enough to buy a card and play. The details are fuzzy. I sort of remember feeling very adult buying bingo cards and pull tabs, trying my luck to win some cash. The bingo tent was, and still is, run by the Marching Band Music Boosters club. So, in addition to playing bingo in the tent, years ago I would volunteer to help out in the tent. It was a given that we would go in high school. To say hi to friends and parents, to see our teachers, to be seen being oh-so-cool playing bingo. Ha!
After graduating from high school we returned to play each year. In the beginning, it was to see younger friends still working at the tent and to say hi to those teachers that we loved and missed. The years have gone by and now when I enter the bingo tent I can't say that there is a familiar face among the volunteer workers. It is rare to see a familiar face even playing bingo. So why do we go back now? Nostalgia? Sure, that's part of it. Fun? Most definitely! As we talked about last night, us three girls like playing bingo. As we sit in the tent each year we always say that this will be the year that we venture to an Elks Lodge or American Legion Hall and try our luck in a different setting. We haven't yet...but I have a feeling this will be the year. Years have been missed here and there at the bingo tent, but when it works out, we still head to the bingo tent.
So, what's another reason we go? Ummm, to win! Not to brag, but I did win a game 8 or so years ago. I don't remember the exact amount, but I think it was around $70. It was a pretty thrilling moment. We had been playing from 1996-2004 without a single win. My dear friends Veronica and Stephanie, though, have yet to win a single game. None of us have one the winner-takes-all, nail biting, ultimate bingo round: Blackout. It is always played as the last game of the evening and you have to get every space filled to win. We buy at least 4 cards each and frantically dob our way through, some years in utter panicky-fun. We have held hands, set up lucky charms, sang songs and many other embarrassing things in order to bring luck to our cards.
While we have never won the jackpot we keep going back. Sitting at the wooden folding tables. Discussing what's new in our lives and reminiscing about bingo tent trips from years past. Sipping on lemonade and noshing on funnel cakes. While the 11:30 pm Blackout game used to signal the end of bingo for the night but just the beginning of our evening (maybe heading out with friends, to a bar, to Denny's or IHOP) it now signals the true ending. Time to go home. Hey, we are old ladies! It's fun to see how times change but continue to stay the same. I know that each year, no matter where our lives have taken us, the three of us will try our hardest to get to the bingo tent to play a few games and maybe, just maybe, take home the jackpot. But seeing each other, keeping a tradition among friends going strong, to me, is the best prize of all.