Today is “Traditional Chess Day” in my homeland. If my memory serves me right, it was the first game my brother and I were taught by our father. We became instantly fascinated by it and we used to play it all the time… we even took it with us on our summer trips, can you believe?!
I do not know why our father decided to teach the game to us. Maybe he thought it would make us think deeper (it makes you think at least three steps ahead) and wider (it teaches you to be patiently observant at all times). Maybe he wanted to share his hobby with us (I learned many years later that, when he was much younger, he had taught his little brothers, who in turn taught their children… my cousins thought it was a tradition in our family to teach this game to the next generation!). Or maybe he simply felt this was the best way he could come up with to spend quality time with us.
But I know why I was so fascinated by it, mainly for three reasons: a) it was a sure way to win time off my father’s busy schedule, b) it was one game I could play on level ground with my big brother, and c) unlike many chess games around the world, ours allows captured pieces to be re-placed on the board as your own, keeping the game full of options until the very end.
So when my father became less busy, and I began to realize I could no longer play on level ground with my brother when he got into football, I lost most of the reasons for playing the game. In time, I grew out of it and got obsessed with piano… the chessboard and pieces were put away, and never again taken out.
As I look back, I wonder how my father felt when my brother and I stopped playing the game. Maybe upset that we threw away the chance to be deeper and wider thinkers? Maybe disappointed that we did not share the love for his hobby? Or maybe sad that we no longer wished to spend time with him?
Maybe a little bit. But maybe he knows that every now and then, like today, I reminisce about the quality time we had together and realize that the time I spend to reminisce is also quality time. And maybe that is how quality time continues.
It makes me somewhat heartbroken that the traditional chess-playing population has shrunk to one-third since my father taught the game to me. I know it is not the only way to spend quality parent-child time, and there must be much more options on how to spend quality parent-child time than when I was growing up, but if I ever have children of my own I might decide to teach them the game, so I can continue my quality time with my father a little longer.