Piaget wrote a dense philosophical treatise on the way kids play marbles. Had Sorry! been around, he would have written ten volumes. Kids grow up playing Sorry! and I don’t mean they play Sorry! growing up because some children were blessed with childhoods where they never knew such a game existed. I mean Sorry! grows kids up.
The name robs from a child’s earliest verbalizations of their still-forming empathy and then stabs an exclamation mark onto the end. “Sorry!” called out in sing-song is many children’s first introduction to sarcasm and ridicule. A Sorry! is when, with the turn of a card, one player gets to take from another player everything they’ve worked for and return them to start.
There are two clogs in Sorry! One in the beginning where players have to draw for one of three cards to get out of Start and one at the end where players have to draw a perfect card to get Home. Between those clogs, players traverse the board at a relatively fast pace. Because of this no one is ever out of a Sorry! game and no one is ever as far ahead as they might feel. But unless you’re an adult nerd playing with his sister’s kids, you haven’t figured any of that out. Your emotions are riding the game’s whims.
We over-praised my 7yo niece when she got out to an early lead. She was beaming, with one token home and the other three in Safety. She didn’t believe she could lose, but that was when things unraveled. Because while you’re waiting to hit that perfect card to get Home, you’re just as likely to draw a 4. A 4 moves you backward out of the illusion of safety you felt in…well, Safety.
At times in the game, there is no choice who to Sorry! Passing isn’t an option. Cruelty is enforced. My mom and I were drawing cards with shaky hands as my nieces battled. We didn’t want to choose between them. Even my older niece wished her sister weren’t having such an unlucky run, she felt…you know. But with no other option, with no sing-song in her voice, she sorried her sister, who burst into tears. I recall her saying to her sister, who tried to explain that the game had made her do it, “But you were looking at me!” Not sure what that meant, but I know she meant it. She stomped from the room. My mom and I remained at the table with my older niece. We called to her but got no answer. There was nothing to be done. Her older sister appeared solemn, but her look said, “So life goes, we can’t spare her its pangs or we deny her its pleasures.” Wise 11yo.
We wondered if the game would end. Then she returned with a teddy bear in the crook of one arm and a box of kleenex in the other. She climbed into her chair. “I brought these in case I start crying again.”
Everyone laughed, she with wet tear streaks covering her face. The game began again. Both my nieces were one token away from Home from winning. They were both in Safety, so my mom and I didn’t have to worry anymore about having to Sorry! either of them, but the situation remained tense, and exciting, as the two of them took turns flipping over cards that might make them winners. When my older niece drew the 3 she needed, I was so overcome with excitement I almost forgot my younger niece. I looked over to show her I was sorry for her. Arms raised high in the air, she was cheering her sister.