On a recent trip back to Boston for the Thanksgiving holiday, I paid a visit to the North End Library on Parmenter Street to play mah jongg. I had read about the weekly Thursday game on a North End Waterfront post.
As anyone who plays mah jongg knows, it is a very addictive game. It requires skill, knowledge, patience, and lots of luck. I’ve been playing for two years in a retirement community in Las Vegas where I now live.
Many of the women at the Mountain Shadows clubhouse in Sun City Summerlin where I play on Tuesdays have been playing for years. They grew up watching their mothers and grandmothers play. I am a novice compared to them.
Let me tell you. Mah jongg is a serious business in Sun City. We play for money. It is Las Vegas, after all.
However, when I arrived at the North End Library on Thursday, I was immediately welcomed into the group. This is a friendly group playing just for the joy and the love of the game. There is no intimidation. No money changes hands.
Terese O’Connell is the library volunteer coordinator of the games. Five card tables are set up in an area behind a partition at the back of the library. Each table seats four. Table mats, racks, mah jongg tiles and cards are provided.
The players follow the rules of the National Mah Jongg League. And to keep things interesting, every year a new card is issued with completely different configurations of winning hands. This is to challenge the players and keep them from becoming bored and complacent.
I seated myself at one of the tables and was soon joined by three other women eager to play. After introducing ourselves and making small talk, we began in earnest to play, passing tiles back and forth, picking up and discarding. The game was on.
If the laughter and the conversations at the tables was any indication, we were all having a very good time. Especially whenever someone called out, “Mah jongg.” Meaning: “I’ve got a winning hand.”
I’m no maven, but I myself won two games. If only we had been playing for money.
I would have made out like a high roller at the casino.