My informant was born in Boston, but his parents immigrated to the United States from Poland. He is an American citizen, but he has spent a few summers in Poland, and his parents keep many Polish traditions alive in his household. He told me about a card game that a Polish visitor taught him. This is his account:
“Okay so, the game is Remyk. You can play it with anyone you want, because it’s a card game. I learned it from my great-aunt, who came to visit us from Poland. It’s often played by middle-aged people who basically tailgate the parking lot after church. So you play this game with two decks, that’s important. The game is, you get thirteen cards, and you draw from the pile to get fourteen. And you want to get a sequence—so like, 2, 3, 4—or you want like three of a kind of four of a kind. And they’re all worth points; face cards are all worth ten. And to start off, you need to get 52 points before you can, like, lay any cards out. And if you can’t, you have to discard one, so you go back to thirteen cards. And eventually, you’ll have a combination of sequence, and like three of a kind or something, so it all adds up to 52. And then you drop that. So let’s say you drop nine cards, because you have like a 7-8-9 and like, three queens and three jacks. And then you still have, what, 5 cards left? And you discard one and you have four. So then from there the goal is to get rid of all your cards, and you can do so by like, adding on. So you have three queens and you pick up a queen, you can add it, because it’s like the same. Or you can add on to like a sequence. And if it’s like three queens, it has to be the fourth kind. And you just play until you’re done—until the last card is discarded.”
Analysis: My informant associates this card game with Polish culture for a couple of reasons. First of all, he learned it from a Polish relative. Secondly, as he said, the adults who he saw playing this game were all Polish, and they typically played in the parking lots of Polish churches. Yet he also admits that this game is basically gin rummy, a card game enjoyed by all nationalities of people today. A quick Google search of “origins of rummy” yields answers ranging from New York City to “the orient.” This game, then, is yet another example of the dissemination of traditions, and how difficult it is to pinpoint exactly which culture can “claim” something as their own. For my informant, this game connected him to the country his parents grew up in as well as to the various groups of people with whom he played the game. He said he usually played Remyk with his family, so the game was something for them to bond over. Therefore, Remyk is not only culturally significant to my informant, but it is important to him on an individual level as well. It connects him to his family. It is fascinating how something as simple as a card game can have more impactful implications when explored more deeply.