I’ve always loved the IDEA of playing Mah Jongg---those fluid movements of all the graceful, deft hands sliding tiles and laying down bamboos and numbers with the quick flash of jade bracelets. We’ve not ever played much hands-on, with the real pieces, though we were given a gorgeous old set way back in the seventies. A dear older lady had it out and waiting for me one day when I dropped off her groceries and mail, and she insisted on my taking it and enjoying it with my family, just because I ran errands for her occasionally. It was in a pretty leather case, with crushed-down Pool-Table-Green velvet inside, marked forever with the indentations of the tiles.
The tiles must have been ivory, I think, for they had the tinge of old piano keys in a forgotten parlor, and were way too heavy for Bakelite. I asked my friend who owned the Chinese grocery (not simply for Asian foodstuffs, but delineated as so to distinguish from Mr. Melton's store or Piggly Wiggly) if she could recommend someone to give me lessons, and she immediately invited me to their Sunday-afternoon game at her house.
It was a splendid afternoon, with two tables of bright, well-dressed ladies talking all over each other in syllables and tones I'd never understand, but which was like some sort of addictive music as they played, punctuated by a PUNG or CHOW or BAM! as they clicked down tiles in such a blur of motion that it was like watching a whole table of sleight-of-hand masters.
I loved the games, learned not nearly what I should have, was treated as an honoured guest, and met some lovely people, who exclaimed and made little tik-tiks of admiration when I brought our game one day.
And now, I enjoy the glorious colours and shapes and designs of all the choices in my online game---everything from the original to automobile emblems and flags-of-nations, in the "new" game in which you match two free tiles, click, and they wisp away into air, like those talented fingers used to do with the tiles on those hot Summer afternoons at Mrs. Wing's.