My grandmother, Nana, who passed away in December, left us one final Christmas present this year--one more round of "Shut up and Go!"
Many years ago, Nana told us she'd come up with a new game to play after Christmas dinner. All day we (cousins, aunts, in-laws) bugged her about what this new game was, but she wouldn't tell. She dropped a few non-hints, like, "it doesn't have many rules, except that everybody has to play. Oh, and a couple of others that I'll tell you about later. Now, keep stirring that gravy." Then she'd smile and add, "But you're gonna like it."
When dinner was over, she got a couple of the cousins to follow her to the back of the house while the rest of us gathered in the living room--a small space, that opened to the dining room. We sat on the sofa, on dining room chairs, and in the floor. In a few minutes the cousins came back toting big cardboard boxes. Nana had a basket with folded pieces of paper in it.
The boys set the boxes in the center of the room, then Nana gave us the rest of the rules. "I've been gathering up stuff all year that I thought some of y'all might want," she said. "It's in these boxes. Everybody's going to draw a number." She shook the basket of papers." In order, you get to pick something out of the boxes to take with you. There are only two rules. Everybody has to pick something. And you have to take what you pick out of my house. I don't care if you throw it away when you get home, but it's leaving here."
The game quickly became lots of noisy fun as people traded items and groaned about all the good stuff being gone early. Once we were down to the stuff nobody wanted, the game got its name. Somebody was buried deep in a box, moaning about how there was nothing left that he wanted, when somebody else (And here memories differ. Was it Nana, my dad, my cousin Tim? They all certainly could have said it.) shouted, "Shut up and go!" to the slow-moving picker.
We played Shut up and go! several years at Nana's house. It became almost as anticipated as opening presents Christmas morning. Then we didn't play for a lot of years. Nana moved out of her house. We no longer all got together at Christmas.
But when Nana died this December, we were all together for the first time in ages, Nana's three daughters, their husbands, all us eight grandchildren and most of our spouses, and 14 great-grandchildren. At my aunt's house, the night after Nana's funeral, we introduced another generation to Shut up and go! with the priceless things that Nana had in her assisted-living room for the last several years, things like half-empty bottles of lotion, old scarves and gloves, but really good things, too, like a nativity set that she had loved for years, some jewelry, and the best prize of all, the one we all got to share.
No, not the two dogs on a pink pillow that sing "I Got You, Babe,"--though I'm thrilled to have the toy that gave Nana more laughs than we could have imagined when we gave it to her. No, we all got one more fun night with our whole family, even Nana, who I know I heard hollering "Shut up and go!" as we dragged the game out long into the night.