Five years ago I stepped back from an intense and absorbing career, and became one of those older first-time moms. While I adored my beautiful baby, I missed working and really missed feeling challenged and sharp. Then, 3 new friends (all considerably younger and hipper than me!) from a mom & baby class at the JCC invited me to join their mah jongg group.
The first time we played, I felt bewildered. The second time, I silently plotted how to extricate myself from the group. My husband John forced me to go a third time, saying that if I didn’t show up, the others wouldn’t have a game. I think he just wanted the house to himself for an evening. But that night, the game suddenly clicked for me. I got it! I felt smart again! I had an income again! OK, yes, on a good night we’re talking a small fistful of quarters and dimes, and on a bad night, I’d slink home and sadly confess that I’d lost $1.25.
John always listened patiently when I’d wake him up to tell him that I came THIS CLOSE to winning a HUGE hand, and he’d nod and try to act interested when I made him look at the card to see which hands I’d won. A flyer for a mah jongg cruise arrived in the mail and I stuck it prominently on our refrigerator. John lived under the constant threat that I’d scoop up my winnings and take off for the Caribbean, leaving him alone for 10 fun-filled days and nights with our baby boy.
I looked forward to those weekly games so much. For a few hours, I was out and about again, using my brain, laughing with the girls and enjoying a little time off.
A new friend called yesterday and invited me to play with her group on Wednesday afternoon. I regretfully had to decline, because, you see, I’m working again. And I deeply resent how the job interferes with my mahj game. Maybe I could teach my boss to play…hmmm…
- Amy Cummings