5 Enduring Lessons Hiding in Scrabble Games With Grandma

Resilience, patience and self-reliance one tile at a time

Maj-le Bridges


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I don’t like Scrabble. Who wants to think during leisure time? Give me Go Fish or Candy Land any day. But Scrabble? Make up words without the necessary letters? Unravel the confusing scoring system? Sit in silence while smarter people spell words with Q’s but no U’s? Try inqilab, kamotiq or niqaabs — you’re welcome.

I started playing Scrabble when I was eight. Not because I liked it, but because my grandmother loved it. And I loved her. I walked to her house after school because I had no cell phone (not invented yet), no close friends, and only two Atari video games. My grandmother would drop whatever she was doing. It was my time with her alone — no cousins, parents or church ladies vying for her attention. If I was lucky, Scrabble was accompanied by a heaping bowl of peach cobbler.

I was horrible in those early games, and forty years later I am not much better. But those Scrabble games taught me valuable lessons.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

As much as I enjoyed spending time with my grandmother, I dreaded the inevitable when I couldn’t find any words to play in my tile soup of vowels. After an eternity, my grandmother would say gently, “I’m sure you have something. Let’s see.”

“I think you might have OCTOPUS if you use that S,” she says as she points to the board. I would play the tiles, she would write down my score and this dance would continue until the end of the game. Until the end of all of the games.

At times, I felt ashamed, thinking that I had let her down because I wasn’t a worthy opponent. She would say, “This is how you get better. Help and practice.” Eventually, I didn’t need as much help. It’s O.K. to fall short as long as you learn something from the experience and improve. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Think for yourself and don’t overly rely on said help

After I figured out that she would help me, I stopped trying that hard. As my spoon scraped the bottom of my delectable bowl of peach cobbler, I knew my grandmother was magically at work turning my gobbledygook into A-B-A-L-O-N-E, I-G-U-A-N-A-S or…



Maj-le Bridges

Gen X-er, recovering lawyer, frustrated writer, Lego enthusiast and serial creative. Medium Top Writer | Published in Start It Up & Age of Awareness.