Monday, August 15, 2011



You don’t know jacks unless you played with my mother, Emma.  With her unrivaled dexterity and grace, she was the champion of the ball and stars.

Wherever we lived, the kitchen served three purposes; a place to cook and eat, a gathering room for friends and family and a stadium for playing jacks.  The floors were always linoleum; a perfect platform for the game.  The hazards were the undersides of the refrigerator and stove, where the ball would often travel if you were not on your game.

Red, blue and green, we played jacks until the colors wore off the metal stars and the little red ball had lost its bounce.  Whoosh! was the sound of my mother’s long fingers and fingernails as they effortlessly scraped the floor to pick up the jacks and catch the ball in one seamless motion.

Onesees, twosees, sixees.  Single, double, triple bounce.  She rarely missed.  When our turn came, we tried to emulate her technique, but we were never quite as good.  She could place them in a pile and pick them up one by one or three by three without touching the others.  She would laugh and softly chastise us if we threw the jacks in too wide a pattern; a trick to make sure we did not touch the jacks as we tried to even the score or (in our dreams) win the game.

I recently bought myself a set of jacks.  It came with a green ball (an abomination) and eight silver metal jacks.  Sadly, the package also included instructions on how to play, but only with one bounce of the ball.  No double or triple bounce.  No twosees or thresees.

Proof again that we don’t know jacks.

Sheryl J. Bize Boutte
August 2010

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