Carol Jackson and her husband, Ron Liebelt, were in Deephaven. Her sister Vicki Heavirland and her husband, Bob, were in North Branch, Minn. Her brother James Schlafer and his wife, Diana, were in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. And another brother, Paul Schlafer, and his wife, Dianne, were in Tennessee.
But that didn’t stop family game night.
On a recent Friday night, the four households in far-flung locations, each with a Monopoly board in front of them, logged onto Facebook Messenger for two hours of camaraderie and one raucous episode of the fast-dealing board game.
With almost everyone hunkered down at home, Jackson came up with the creative idea to keep the family in touch.
“We figured out a way to spend time together,” she said. “After losing two brothers within 18 months of each other, we realize just how important staying connected is.”
They settled on Monopoly because it was a game that all of the siblings owned. And as Jackson said, “there are only a few games that work long-distance. Cards don’t work because you can’t see them.”
As the siblings rolled their dice and announced their moves, brother Bob ran the master board. He moved slips of paper with each player’s name on it to mark their positions as each player moved their game pieces on their individual boards.
Players controlled their own money as they bought and sold property and paid rent, with their phones and computers positioned so everyone could watch.
There were plenty of laughs as the siblings traded barbs.
“Don’t spend it all on toilet paper,” Diana joked as she forked over $8 to Carol after landing on Connecticut Avenue.
“We got the wrong dice,” Paul said sarcastically after landing in jail for the fourth time. “I’ll wait till the governor lets me out,” he said in a nod to the notion that authorities in some states have considered releasing some low-level offenders to help stop the spread of the virus in correctional facilities.
For Paul, game night helped fill a void.
He and his wife had planned to come to Minnesota for a visit, but called off the trip as health officials warned people not to travel.
Jackson’s game night is just one example of how technology, often blamed for fracturing society, can be a tool to bring people together.
“Online now, while it seems so distant, and we have complained that it kept us from interacting, that is kind of our lifeline now,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a March 20 news conference.
Not only did the family connect, they “had a blast,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve played Monopoly in 30 years.”