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This I Believe: I Believe In Bunco

Essayist Vanessa McLaughlin

I believe in Bunco.

As a trailing spouse, I’ve lived in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Morocco, Boston, New York City, and Jacksonville, North Carolina. What’s a trailing spouse? Well, I followed my husband around the world for his career. We took our possessions, worked, traveled, and had children in these places. While it sounds exciting, when we arrived in a new city or country, I felt apprehensive about meeting new people. But through a game called Bunco, I was able to make life-long friends and gain valuable knowledge about the local community.

Bunco is a dice game. It requires little skill, except the rolling of dice. It’s mostly a lot of gabbing, chatting and maybe a glass of wine…or two. It’s a great excuse to get out of the house for a few hours, away from chores and child rearing.

The first time I played Bunco was in Jacksonville. One day when I was at the grocery store, I met a woman named Jen. We bumped into each other while scouring the shelves for gnocchi, and we struck up a conversation. She invited me to her house for Bunco. I didn’t know what Bunco was, but I went anyway, and crazy enough, I met other trailing spouses. As I rolled the dice and chatted with them, I discovered where to buy fresh gnocchi, the best local beach, and the best hair stylist.

When my husband and I landed in Rota, Spain, I met a woman named Laurie who invited me to roll the dice. While there, I was offered a job as a fitness instructor and learned where to go for authentic tapas and, most importantly, the best hair stylist.

In Morocco, a woman named Amina invited me to play Bunco, and in State College, it was Robin. By that time, I had children, so I learned about the best pediatrician, the best pre-schools, and again, you guessed it, the best hair stylist.

In each place, my Bunco friends and I would get together once or twice a month. These women became my closest friends. When my car broke down in Jacksonville, I called Jen. In Spain, Laurie consoled and supported me when I struggled with a colicky baby. Amina, a mother of 4, remained calm and nonplussed when my son threw up on the floor of her Moroccan home. And it was the State College “buncquettes” who helped me celebrate my 40th birthday.

State College has been my family’s most permanent spot. We’ve lived here for 12 years, and the closest friends I have are the ladies I met at Bunco. Thank you Jen, Laurie, Amina, and Robin for inviting me. Whichever state or country is in my future, I’ll follow the lead of these women and throw my own Bunco party. I’ll be the one to extend the invitation, offer friendship, and, of course, point my new friends to the best hair stylist.

I believe in Bunco.

Vanessa McLaughlin is a lecturer in communication arts and sciences at Penn State.

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