Della Slessinger, My Mahj Mom

1935.  I was five years old.  My job when my mother hosted her mahj game was to place a little piece of thin paper in the rolling machine, place a pinch of tobacco along-side, then roll and paste each one to form 4 ciggies in the little glass holder at the corners of the card table, along with a bowl of bridge mix for each player.


Although five of us lived in a one bedroom apartment on Hampshire Road, in the midst of a depression, it was Della’s day to sport her fanciest facade.  She wore a heavy white satin housecoat, adorned the table with a hand embroidered linen cloth and matching cocktail napkins, I still cherish.


To the best of my recollection, her neighboring girlfriend players were Mary Diamond, proprietress of the local flower shop on Coventry, Gussie Rose, whose daughter in law, Mimi, now plays with me, and Beryl Shapiro Rothchilds’ mom. I sometimes played with their kids when they had their game (Billy Rose, Stan Diamond and Beryl).


After they married, both my sister, Jean Gallin, and sister in law, Sandy Slessinger, played with my mom.  I was not at all interested, until I lived on Rye Road and my frequent traveling husband was often away. Neighbors Joan Weiss, Sally Inglis (Rich), and others on that popular street got me started.  My sister, Jean Sokol, gave me her set, but they used more flowers and fewer jokers in the old hands, so I converted some using May Co. Eagle stamps, which conveniently covered the tile to convert into a joker.

NCJW’s classes volunteered by Marilyn Goldfein brought me back up to speed after 2000.


These are some of the perks of living in Cleveland for eighty-one years and enjoying the nostalgia resurrected by venues like the Maltz Museum with innovative director, Judi Feniger.  Just mention a name, and there’s a connection!


–        Boots Freeman