By Kathleen Schaefer

The walk-in closet in the study can be overwhelming. Against one wall is a pile of old art kits remaining from my elementary school days, beginner piano books I never quite mastered, and a variety of neglected instruments ranging from a saxophone and a cornet to an old violin.
Along the other wall are board games, dozens of them.
Stacked haphazardly so that it becomes a challenge to safely extract one from the mass, the games reach from the ceiling to the ground and then sprawl across the floor. Yearly attempts to organize this closet have failed simply because the games do not fit along only one wall of shelves.
Sometimes we play basic card games or quick matches of Boggle. Other times, board games consume three hours, not including the 30 minutes needed to set up the game and recall fundamental rules. Sometimes we need only a few pawns and a pair of dice to play, while other times multiple expansion packs leave us wondering about ― or simply ignoring ― certain unknown pieces.
Since I could first move pieces around a Candy Land board, games have been the best way to connect with my family. Between swapping cards and contemplating strategies, we debate politics, retell stories, and groan at bad puns.
Our family games have never been idyllic. Any three-hour game will inevitably result in short arguments over petty details and often a brief walkout by one of us. We fill the time between ten-minute turns with heated debates about the most ridiculous subjects. But we never have considered these outbursts sufficient reason to discontinue the tradition.
Due to my stubborn sense of dignity, only games can offer me a certain freedom to try nonsensical activities. I will let my brother coax me into playing a Monty Python card game with the thankfully optional choices of singing ridiculous songs or speaking in fake accents. Last year he introduced me to his new favorite college activity: a card game with a variety of murderous bunnies intent on claiming a magic carrot.
And it is all completely ridiculous, but I never care.
Games are occasions of battle without any casualties, moments of fierce competition without any consequences. The walk-in closet serves as a haven from the stress of everyday problems.
In the towers of board games, some have claimed countless hours of my life while others sit forgotten on the bottom of a shelf.
A few of the boxes, left from my parents’ collections, flaunt torn corners and missing pieces while the newest games rest in glossy packages.
Each offers an opportunity for pure enjoyment.