Etl Betl – Cat’s Cradle

She came to America, “The Promised Land,” after World War I as a grown woman.  Mama worked hard all of her life.  While in Poland she walked out to the countryside with her mama to peddle goods to the Polish farmwomen and lugged back the produce she received in exchange.  Her papa was in America to make money to bring them over.

On our farm, she did most of the housework, fed Papa, her four boys, and Paul, the hired hand, while also helping with the heavy work outside.

Things changed when one of her boys was sick.  Everything except the most essential chores was put aside, and Mama became the best nurse you could ever have.  She told us stories about her childhood and played games with us.

We played cards, and she always lost to us in Pisha Pasha, Rummy or Casino.  It was a different matter when we put aside the deck of cards and Mama pulled out the looped string that she carried in her apron. 

Her mood changed dramatically when she played our favorite game, Etl Betl (Cat’s Cradle).  No professional athlete could be more intent on winning than Mama.  Even that wonderful smile disappeared.  Mama’s huge hands rapidly moved the looped string as she converted one of the eight shapes from our hands to hers.  She always won, and then we hugged, kissed, and laughed.