When I think of Mah Jongg and Grandma, I think of the story I heard about how she caught one of her friends cheating. I wasn’t there, but as the story goes, Grandma was in the midst of playing when she noticed that one of “the girls” was switching a tile from her hand and her wall. Grandma glared at the woman, made sure she had eye contact, and then declared, “You’re disgusting!” When I heard that story, I laughed hard because I could totally picture the whole scene. And Grandma’s right. There’s no point in cheating at a game of Mah Jongg – or any other game.
Grandma has always told me to “be good” and help others, to the point that she made sure her message was heard in my house even when she wasn’t visiting. We have an African grey named Sheba, and a couple years ago Grandma taught the bird to say “be good” by repeating it over and over until Sheba caught on. So now, whenever I hear Sheba tell me to “be good,” I’m reminded of Grandma and the values she continues to teach me every time I see her. Now that I’m getting older, she seems more intent on advising me to use my skills and intelligence and smarts for something good. Whenever I visit, she tells me to use the gifts I’ve been given to help others – and then when I come home I hear it from Sheba: “Be Good!”
But Grandma is not just about being good, she’s about being competent too.
You have to really pay attention when you’re playing Mah Jongg with Grandma and her friends in the Poconos. It’s very hard to keep up, and they all have these secret code names when they’re passing the tiles. “Soap.” “3 Green.” What’s that? You have to look at the tiles to know what’s being called. They beat me every time.
- “Don’t worry about picking out a specific hand when you start passing, just pick one or two categories you’re most likely to end up in.”
- “Don’t pass your flowers, most hands need a couple.”
- “Don’t separate your tiles when you start playing, put them all together so your opponents don’t guess your hand.
- “If you think your hand is going to be dead, throw your jokers out and keep all the tiles that you think others want until the very end.”
Now that’s about “being good” at Mah Jongg!