My first memories of the game were at a very early age (8 or 9 years old) when I visited my beloved grandmother Mildred every spring in Miami Beach. On some nights, she instructed me to watch TV in the bedroom because “the ladies” were coming over for a game and they were not to be disturbed. But I would peek and quietly watch them in secret. It was the ‘60’s. I remember her friends as these elegant ladies, dressed in beautiful clothing, sitting around Grandma’s card table with racks and tiles before them, and Grandma’s good china coffee cups and beautiful dishes of nuts placed on TV trays next to them. The ladies spoke firmly but very quickly (one crack, five bam, three dot….). I thought this was oddly quiet for playing a game. Then, out of nowhere, someone said loudly “Mahj!” and they all said “aaaahhhh”. If I timed it just right, I’d come out of the bedroom just in time to help mix the tiles.
It was a rite of passage when my mother and aunt taught me and my cousin to play the game when we were both 10 years old. Now it’s my niece’s turn. She is 11 years old and has become quite the competitive player. Along with her mother, me and my mother, the four of us play every other week or so. It is such a gift to watch three generations of women sharing this family tradition, playing with equal competitive spirit and determination to win, let alone the laughter we have together. Grandma Mildred would be so proud. Now if I can only get my sister to stop agonizing over every possible hand and throw the darn tile!
– Anne Rosenberg