This particular house is strangely out of place. It’s nestled between a True Value hardware store and a line of train tracks. It refused to make way for the encroaching Buffalo Wild Wings, TJ Maxx, and the vast lagoons of pavement that define most of Tualatin’s commercial core.
This wayward house is home to Ancient Wonders. It’s an old-school gaming store. Over the last 25 years, I’ve spent hours in this store. It smells vaguely like a bookstore. It also smells of adolescent bodies and Doritos. There’s no other smell quite like it.
Novice players come here to purchase their first role-playing books. Parents bring their children to buy Pokemon cards and boardgames to play as a family. “Grognards” are the people who come to argue passionately about the most esoteric topics imaginable: Could you blind an opponent by casting a “light” spell on that person’s nose?
Ancient Wonders is something more than place of business. It’s a place of refuge. It’s a sanctuary for gamers who might not feel fully accepted or understood in other settings.
One day, I made my occasional pilgrimage to Ancient Wonders. As always, I admired the gemlike collection of dice beneath the glass countertop. Then, I made my way to the cardboard box of assorted Magic cards. This is my usual destination.
The cardboard box is large enough to serve as a generous sock drawer. It’s subdivided into five rows. It is my habit to start at the very front of the first row and I look at every card in turn. I admire the artwork. When I find cards from the 1990’s, I’m happy to remember playing this particular game for the fist time. When I find cards from the last year or two, I’m intrigued to see how things have changed.
On this particular visit, as I perused the various portraits of elves and angels and animated walls, I heard a couple of other patrons talking about immigration. From what they were saying, I knew that we would never be political allies. But we were all gamers. In this place of sanctuary, I wasn’t even tempted to challenge their politics.
And then, one of them said, “The Germans had it right. We just need to put them in box cars.” I was so shocked that I spoke without thinking. I said, “Hey! That’s not okay!” It was hardly eloquent. And I doubt my outburst changed their way of thinking. I did not carefully discern my words before speaking. But when I spoke, it felt like obedience to the Light.