In my family, everybody plays pinochle.

There are a lot of us. My paternal grandparents have several siblings apiece, and all of them play pinochle. Likewise, all of them have children that play cards. At any given family reunion on my Dad's side (where roughly 70-100 people will show up a day), we spend the vast majority of our time sitting around tables with a deck or two of cards and a scorepad. It's our recreation.

We're a loud, fun-loving bunch. We tease and challenge each other in all sorts of absurd games, and we almost all get along. Occasionally we'll have challenges in arm-wrestling, horseshoes, or cribbage, but when it all comes down our game is pinochle.

We say that in our family, you're born knowing how to play pinochle. Most of us don't really remember sitting down and learning the rules, it's just one of those things we've always understood. Any one of us can play variations designed for any number of people, though most of us have a favorite. I prefer 4-handed, my cousin Melissa swears by 5-handed-double-deck. Typically, we just find out how many people are free for a game and pick the appropriate variation for the number of people we've got.

I never thought it was odd that this is how we choose to spend our time. However, in the last few years I've noticed something odd . . . not everybody likes to sit around a table for many hours at a time playing cards. There are people in my family that do not enjoy playing pinochle, or will scurry off after only two or three hours. And all of these people have something in common: they married in to the family.

We stare at them confused when they choose television or books over our card games. Without fail, the ones who wander off are ones who accidentally got caught up in our wacky family and haven't had the opportunity to enjoy cards from birth. My friends tell me it's weird to sit around a table all night with my cousins and a deck of cards, but I insist it's a great way for us to connect, plus a whole lot of fun. This has always been a part of my life, and those of my aunts, uncles, parents, and cousins. My brother married a girl who will only play for an hour or two before wandering off to do something else. We all love the girl, but I secretly think to make my future marriage work, the guy will have to love cards.

Because if you don't love pinochle, you must have married in. But if you weren't born in and you love pinochle anyway, you're exactly what I'm looking for.

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