Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Not your grandma’s BINGO March 23, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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We played with BINGO cards similar to these at Preschool BINGO Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2016)

I COLLECTED MY CARD, then settled onto a chair around the large round table, eldest daughter and son-in-law to my left, granddaughter, grandson and husband to the right. An instruction sheet and popcorn heaped in paper boats were already on the table. Centering the tabletop were orange, white and green tissue paper flowers, green beads and more, remnants from St. Patrick’s Day only days prior.

This was a much-anticipated evening for families packing a massive room at a Lutheran church in a south metro suburb. This was BINGO Night at Isaac’s preschool, an event Randy and I were delighted to attend. Isaac, 4, and his big sister, Isabelle, 6, like to play BINGO when they stay overnight with us.

But this preschool BINGO is not your grandma’s BINGO, I soon discovered. The game we play in our dining room involves balls rolling, rattling in a cage. The game we play in our home also involves placing physical markers on BINGO squares. And the BINGO we play on our dining room table offers coinage as prizes, not toys filling a prize table.

I could see the kids’ excitement when they eyed the loot laid out before them. Izzy focused on plastic dinosaurs. And Isaac, well, I expected he wanted something with which he could create. The desire to win ran strong. The pressure was on for two winning games, minimum, at our table.

The type of BINGO set-up we use at home. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2011)

And then the games began, not with the rattling of balls spun in a metal cage, but rather with a teacher announcing numbers popping onto a computer and then projected onto overhead screens. This was high-tech BINGO. And this grandma was amazed. The game moved at a faster pace than rotating a cage and pulling balls.

I appreciated the absence of distracting noise that accompanies the manual way of playing BINGO. I still struggled to hear, though. I’m deaf in my right ear, the result of sudden sensory hearing loss in 2011. That affects my overall hearing and processing of speech and conversation. Thankfully, my daughter patiently repeated numbers when needed or I turned to the screen behind my back to view the too-small numbers. (And, no, a hearing aid will not help with this type of hearing loss; I would have one if it did.)

I won first place in a contest for this photo of BINGO callers at the July Fourth 2013 celebration in North Morristown, rural Minnesota through and through. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2013)

Two games in, Grandpa scored a BINGO on the cards with pull-across, see-through red squares to cover numbers. I joked initially that I needed corn kernels to play. When I attended the annual American Legion BINGO Night while growing up in rural southwestern Minnesota, I covered squares with kernels of corn. Totally appropriate and accessible in farm country. But we were not in rural Minnesota and this was six decades later. There was not a kernel of corn to be found.

Upon Grandpa’s BINGO win, he and Isaac scooted to the prize table. As I predicted, our grandson chose an art-related prize—a mini painting book. I could see Izzy coveting her brother’s prize, anxious to claim a dinosaur.

BINGO is popular in Minnesota, including at the Rice County Fair in Faribault. This photo was taken in the off-season. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2021)

Game after game after game we played with no winners at our table, but everywhere else. Isaac soon tired of playing and Grandpa grabbed his card. Yes, playing more than one card was allowed. At one point I joked that Isaac should have hacked into the computer while at preschool earlier that day and rigged the games.

Izzy won a dinosaur similar to this one from our basement toybox. Hers was new and not worn. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

Finally, the dad won and Marc and Izzy raced to get a prize. All the while I was repeating silently, “Please let there be a dinosaur still on the table. Please, please, please.” The first grader returned clutching a dinosaur, broad smile lighting her face. I breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude that Izzy got a dinosaur, one of three still on that prize table.

About 1.5 hours in, we were down to the last game, a BINGO cover-all. As the game progressed, Izzy was getting more and more excited. She had one number left to cover. I could feel, see and hear her anticipation, her mind likely focused on grabbing a second dinosaur. But she didn’t win and then the tears came. And Grandma tried to work her grandma magic. “Look at how lucky you were to get that dinosaur!” And so on and so forth until her dad said, as we were walking across the parking lot, that he really won the dinosaur and he would be taking it to work. Marc roared and joked until all of us were laughing, even the previously-disappointed dinosaur-loving six-year-old.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling



14 Responses to “Not your grandma’s BINGO”

  1. beth Says:

    What a wonderful fun family night for all, games played and lessons learned, along with a bit of levity to bring everyone back to their happy state. Well-played. Ps – love your past pic of the bingo callers

    • It was a fun night and I appreciate the preschool organizing this BINGO Night.

      That pic of the BINGO callers rates as one of my favorite photos. I was delighted to place first in a photo contest, earn a cash prize and publication.

  2. Great story and I can just see the excitement the kids had through your words. Making memories.

  3. What FUN and glad both kids won a prize! You might want to give dominos a go with those two – may just like it. I remember growing up with my grandparents and them getting the cards out – played a lot of cards – played for pennies, treats, etc. Sometimes grandpa would break out his secret stash of popcorn to share – that was the best treat! Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. NSee Says:

    Very engaging, present and personal writing style. Thank YOU

  5. Valerie Says:

    This sounds like a fun, family event…and interesting to learn the updated version of Bingo!

    I’m glad each of your grandchildren got a prize.

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