It's All In The Game
by A. Charles Corotis


It's All In The Game: A selected Collection of Gay Essays
on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Mnemosyne,
Assayed from the Provocative Pages of
New Jersey's Literate Review Weekly, The Argus

By A. Charles Corotis



It started inauspiciously enough, giving no hint it was to become one of those rare, memorable days that stir the hidden founts of feeling.

The rains wept in slanting lines, steadily, relentlessly. Not the "shower of commanded tears" Shakespeare teases about in The Taming of the Shrew but rather Coates Kin-ney's "subdued, subduing strain which is played upon the shingles by the patter of the rain."

I lay indolently, luxuriously in bed this sodden Sunday morning and listened to the silvery symphony playing its soft pleasant tune on the window panes. What is it Proverbs says? "A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a con­tentious woman are alike." Well, there are no contentious women in our house, so my rain-cadenced mind groped for more pertinent expressions.

"Then the rain fell on the roof and the twilight dark­ened," I recalled reading from the pen of Stephen Vincent Benet. Pretty, but the twilight was not darkening; it was mid-morning.

I thought of Henry Timrod's "spring with her golden suns and silver rain." Well, it was spring, early spring, but there was no sun this day.

Automatically my mind turned to my favored passage from my much-loved "Song of Songs of Solomon": "For, lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers ap­pear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."

I glowed in ecstatic enjoyment of the beauty of the bib­lical words, but reality compelled me to reject it as inappro­priate. Winter was over, true enough, but the rain definitely was not; the blossoms hadn't yet emerged from their hiber­nation, the birds were huddled silently in the shelter of tree trunks, and the mournful coo of the dove still was stilled.

Well, let's see. There was Portia's tender "the quality of mercy is not strain'd, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."

Oh, come now, Corotis, let's not wander completely off the beam. You can do better than that!

You think it's easy? Old Lear saw "sunshine and rain at once, her smiles and tears," but now there was no sun. Only rain, only torrents of tears. Jonathan Swift, the epigrama-rian, saw it "rain cats and dogs," but that's silly. Longfellow, of course, gave sound if unimaginative advice in "The Birds of Killingworth": "For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining, is to let it rain."

All right, all right. Then how about Andrew Cherry's "the rain a deluge showers"? Better, eh.

Well, try this on for size: "Though it rain daggers with their points downward." Too fanciful? Don't blame me; Robert Burton wrote it. What of Paul Hamilton Hayne's "lines of rain like glittering spears deprest"? Or Thomas Lovell Beddoes' "silver chain of rain unravel'd from the tum­bling main"? Or William Rose Benet's "rain with a silver flail"? Oh, you like them better. So do I. And best of all, Thomson's "the clouds consign their treasures to the fields, and softly shaking on the dimpled poor prelusive drops, let all their moisture flow, in large effusion, o'er the freshened world."

Well, that will give you an idea of my mood and the set­ting for this rainy Sunday in early April that I'd like you to share with me.

You must remember it. It climaxed a four-day spell of spillage that seemed "to rise eternal, impalpable out of the land and bottomless sea," as Walt Whitman put it in "Voice of the Rain," his Poem of the Earth.

Now I, like Hamlin Garland, don't fear "the slash of the rain," and I don't let it drive me to fanciful speculation like John Lyly: "The soft droppes of rain perce the hard mar­ble; many strokes overthrow the tallest oaks." I agree with Margaret Sangster that "folks should carry bright umbrellasin the rain to smile into the sullen sky and make it glad again."

But there is an inescapable feeling of melancholy that comes with the fourth successive day of rainfall. The dash­ing dance of the singing rain on the pane makes mournful music for the mind, especially when the house is eerily quiet save for the steady tick-tock of the cuckoo clock in Ross' room next door, punctuated by the punctual silvery chord-ing of quarterhour chimes from the august old grandfather's clock below. The dominant note still is the pouring patter on windows and eaves, and through the trees' nascent leaves.

Longfellow, I think, put it best in "The Day Is Done":

A feeling of sadness and longing That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain.

It was that kind of day. The night before, Hazel, June and I had gone to a dance—pardon me, a ball— and didn't get in 'til quite late. The boys had attended the school fair, and afterwards the movie house. A sleepy, rain-induced lethargy seemed to grip the whole household. The stage was set for a lazy, leisurely day, one of those occasional excur­sions into phantasmagoria that knits the family closer to­gether—a moment when Home becomes deep imaged in the soul .... Home, the sphere of harmony and peace. There is a magic in that little word home; Southey saw it "a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known be­yond its hallowed limits"

This was a day so pleasant, so serene, so intimate that tears trembled in the heart. Before it ended, we were to know what Cicero meant when he said "there is no place more delightful than home." Lytton opined that " 'tis at sixty men learn how to value home," but awakening comes earlier on days such as this when home is indeed bright with a calm delight, when it truly becomes Washington Irving's "paternal hearth, that rallying place of the affections."

The basement at 600 Chester is a perfect haven for a bluesy day. In fact, it is suitably equipped to sit out a siege— or more topically, a bombing.

Knotty pine walls and ceiling provide a satiny-rough, carefree motif. The asphalt tile flooring is gaily designed. Inset musical notes mark June's recessed victrola stall and the television-radio-record player which dominates the front part of the room. A smart top-hat-white-gloves-cane inset ushers in the bar at the far end. Similarly sophisticated prints and figurines—some more so—adorn that department which, of course, was out of bounds on this memorable day.

Built-in shelves hold some of our most cherished books and volumes of art reproductions. Our own personal library of movie film is there, with projector and screen—miles and miles of tightly coiled impressions in color of cherished mo­ments in our family life.

Collections of matches, menus and other memory-stir-ing mementos of hotels, restaurants and night spots visited around the country add a cosmopolitan flavor that guests of­ten find intriguing.

Comfortable and gaily colored furniture abounds—deep-seated chairs, straight and curved divans, hassocks and the like. In an adjoining room is an electric refrigerator, well-stocked with soft stuff and brew, and a tempting supply of nibblings: cans of pretzels, potato chips, peanuts, a wide va­riety of crackers and cookies.

In another room is the ping-pong table and the tables for cards; in still another a punching bag, the toolshop, toy storage.

Off to one side is a door with the allegedly whimsical sign: gentlemen without ladies not admitted here. Behind that door are the remaining facilities requisite for a self-contained living unit.

Yes, you can do most anything down in our basement on a rainy day.

June started the trek downstairs while  the rest of us lingered over our sausages and wheatcakes in the breakfast  nook. Soon lovely FM music was flooding the place like a softly glowing sunset. Bruce and Ross went down and intro­duced a competitive note via TV.

When June switched to the phonograph, one wonderful old tune after another, Hazel and I no longer could resist.. Certainly there was work to be done, but it just would have to wait. It was that kind of day. It was glorious.

We played records and piano, danced and sang; we watched television and movies, we listened to the radio, we played table tennis and rummy. And occasionally we just sat and beamed in meditative silence, like parties to a sly, secretive conspiracy, to the accompaniment of the caressing strains of the rains. Just the five of us.

Life is good at such blessed moments. What more could a man want than thus to have his family around him in soft content? I've always subscribed to Swinburne's philosophy in Erechtheus: "Many loves of many a mood and many a kind fill the life of man, and mold the secret mind," but truly love's heart is home. "Love comforteth like sunshine after rain," Adonis tells Venus in one of Shakespeare's loveliest sonnets, and where we love is home—"the sweetest type of heaven," in Holland's words.

"Home," sang Charles Swain, "is where Affection calls, filled with shrines the Heart hath builded," and Byron added: "Without hearts there is no home."

"But we who inherit the primal curse and labor for our bread," Joyce Kilmer wrote, "have yet, thank God, the gift of Home, though Eden's gate is barred."

Verily, this is the true nature of home, this day of domi­ciliary, domestic joy, heightened by the contrasting desola­tion of the elements without. What was it Hare wrote? "To Adam paradise was home—to the good among his descend­ants, home is paradise." And Young: "The first sure symp­tom of a mind in health, is rest of heart, and pleasures felt at home."

"Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary," penned Longfellow. Well, must they? Taking H. W. literally, must they? I'd rather say with Christina Rossetti: "I shall not see the shadows, I shall not feel the rain."

I disagree, too, with Thomas Stearns Eliot when he says ^'April is the crudest month, breeding lilacs out of dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain."

It need not be so. No, it need not indeed. Nor must we •echo Stephen Benet's cynicism: "Now grimy April comes again .... maketh silvers in the rain."

No, April in the rain can be beautiful. "Hark how the rain is pouring," but that's outside. Inside is home, a cheery, paneled basement, and Ross, still in red pajamas, squealing delightedly as he relives anew the pleasures given him by long-discarded toys. And June, supervising the nostalgic pa­rade of old favorites—Ruth Etting and Gene Austin and Frank Crumit, Caruso and Galli-Curci and McCormack. And Hazel, perusing books on home decorating—she loves to identify our furniture by period and mode: Regency, Chip­pendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Queen Anne, Duncan Phyfe, French provincial, and we have some of each. But no Victorian—absolutely no Victorian.

Then finally, Bruce, the champ, disposing of my table tennis challenge fairly handily, now trying to do as well by himself at solitaire. And I doing some long-delayed splicing of Kodachrome with one eye on my much-loved family, an ear to their chatter and to the music, a thought to my good fortune, a silent prayer of gratitude suffusing my soul.

"He is the happiest," said Goethe, "be he king or peas­ant, who finds peace in his home." Happy then am I. And joyous by Pestalozzi's definition: "Our home joys are the most delightful earth affords, and the joy of parents in their children is the most holy joy of humanity."

So it was raining. Outside the day was dark and dreary, cheerlessly dismal.

But inside there was light and music, laughter and love. Remember Robert Loveman's "April Rain":

It is not raining rain to me,
      It's raining daffodils; 
In every dimpled drop I see
Wild flowers on the hills.

A health onto the happy!
        A fig for him who frets! 
It is not raining rain to me,

       It's raining violets.