It was Bingo night at Potomac Elementary School—but this was no ordinary Bingo night: It was my unveiling as the new wife of the popular, divorced, PTA treasurer.
While I had moved only ten miles west, Potomac seemed like a foreign land. In my old neighborhood, my friends were academic types, dressed in fortune-teller chic; whereas in Potomac, the women—in my fantasy anyway—wore Gucci. Their enhanced lips gave them the appearance of a goldfish hungry for a morning feed.
Once all six of us had our Bingo cards and candy firmly in hand, and the kids were done arguing over how many playing boards they could manage at one time, we made our way through the fluorescent-lit all-purpose room to find a table at the back.
Like the new kid at school, pushing my plastic tray along the shiny metal rails in the cafeteria, I imagined all eyes were on me.
The room vibrated with anticipation as the perfectly coifed blonde mother gave the large metal basket a spin, and the black and white Bingo balls jumped to and fro in a frenzy.
“N-34,” “B-10,” she called in turn as the kids and I cheered each number we matched and groaned with each miss.
“I only need two more to win,” shouted my stepson over the din.
“Give me a G-56,” pleaded my daughter. Their excitement was infectious, with me egging them on with every round.
I have long been designated as the one who thrives on winning, so perhaps I was a bit too invested in this game. My girls love telling the story of another game; a time when I played Monopoly with them and got so caught up in my Trump-like acquisition of their land that it wasn’t until my younger daughter broke down in tears that I was able to dial back the frenzy.
I don’t remember which of the six of us won which Bingo round that night, but in short order we had secured three of the five prizes. With each triumph we grew dizzier with the exhilaration of winning—and with our newly formed unbeatable family.
“Now for the final Super Grand prize of the evening,” the Bingo caller announced. “An amazing basket filled with fabulous prizes for the player who first fills the entire board.” Poised at the edge of our seats, our stamps at the ready, the balls kept popping and the numbers rang out.
“Just one more number! Give me G-51!” I shouted.
I held my breath awaiting the next number.
Across the room came a shout, “BINGO!” A moan burst from our table. The PTA president called, “Come on up! Let’s see if we have our winner.” Quickly adding, “But please don’t clear your boards until we are sure we have a winner.”
The kids crossed their fingers as they silently pleaded, “Please, please.”
After a minute or two, we heard the saving words, “False alarm. Remember to check your numbers carefully. We can keep going.”
Yes! We were still in the game.
Two, three numbers were called, still no shouts of Bingo. Then it came: G-51.
Hallelujah! I flew out of my seat, arms waving, like a celebrant at a Baptist revival. My husband and four kids gave me high fives as I skipped around our cafeteria bench. We were united—one family, a family of winners!
“YES, YES!” I shouted over and over again.
The cafeteria was a blur of faces as I made my way toward the stage. So focused on the gigantic cellophane wrapped basket beckoning from the front of the room, I didn’t even notice the eerie silence that surrounded me.
“I won! I won!” I shouted. My arms continued to pump the air, as if I had just scored the winning penalty kick at the Women’s World Cup.
Leaping up the steps I turned toward the Bingo caller awaiting her congratulations. Then suddenly I took in her stony expression; she was staring at me as if I had been caught in front of her open refrigerator drinking milk out of the carton.
Raising the microphone so that everyone could hear her question she asked “Excuse me, but do you have any children here?”
I looked out at a room full of blank faces. Then I heard the whispers, imagining them saying, “Who is that woman, anyway?” and “Is that his new wife?”
“Oh, sure, sure. Of course.” I said, as I leaned into the mike, “Kids, come on up to get your prize.”