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  • Kate Forest

Mah Jongg and Other Life Saving Practices


When my now 18-year-old was only 2, one of my “Playgroup Mom Friends” mentioned that her mother was going to teach her to play Mah Jongg. Because I have always wanted to be an old Jewish Lady in Miami Beach (and that is how they spend their days), I jumped at the chance.

The group of women I had come to rely on for my sanity and my child’s well-being sat around a dining room table with no kids. That was more than worth the price of admission (which was a tray of cookies I bought at Wegman’s because I can’t cook or bake). The camaraderie we had already built from being in the trenches of motherhood was strengthened from struggling to learn the complex game.

Here are the two quotes I will always remember from Barbara, the very Brooklyn woman who taught us:

“You have to hate losing more than you like winning.” Which speaks to the sometimes cutthroat strategy of the game. And “The buffet goes on the side.” Which she said in response to our placing plates of snacks on the table among the tiles.

I love a mental challenge. Mahj is a great mix of strategy and luck. Aggressive play is rewarded at certain points, but you also need to know how to play defensively.

I have no idea what is happening in this picture, but I think I need a panda costume.

When I had to leave my second hometown and move to my third and current hometown, leaving my Mahj game pained me in ways I had never felt before.

What was one of the first things I did when I moved here? I invited all my new friends to learn to play Mah Jongg. That first lesson in my house rattled my nerves. Would these women think I was crazy? Would they hate this game? But they took to it. Our group grew. And now, every Sunday night we rotate from each woman’s house. We play aggressively, defensively, and friendly. We pitch in when there is a crisis. We hold a party when there is a celebration. But we keep the food off the table where we play.

Quiz: What is wrong with this picture?

The answer is not, "Absolutely nothing." Don't let Pierce Brosnan's good looks distract you. He's playing with too many tiles. But I'd let him shuffle my tiles anytime.


© 2015 by KATE FOREST