Sunday, November 21, 2010

Games People (but not me) Play

When it came to table games, my mother considered me a disappointment. She and her friends had a long history of playing cards: Poker, Gin Rummy, Canasta, Kaluki (does anyone still remember that one?). Then Mah-Jongg became the rage and continued to be the highlight of the ladies’ get-togethers for as long as they were able to get together. I was surprised that these close friends—who found lots to gossip and complain about—couldn’t seem to be in each other’s company for long without a game to occupy them. For me, just being with friends and eating something was enough entertainment.

It’s not as if others in my generation didn’t play some of the same games, especially Mah-Jongg. Many still do. I tried to learn Mah-Jongg, but I never really got it. I’d like to think it’s not because I didn’t have the mental capacity. I just didn’t care enough about it and didn’t want to spend my time that way. My mother didn’t coerce me any further, but I knew she wished I’d been interested.

I was grateful for my mother’s passion for card games and Mah-Jongg. It kept her busy in the years after my father died. Almost every day there was some activity that involved somebody’s home, baked goods—maybe even lunch—and a folding table set up for some serious playing (but not serious money).

As a child and teenager I liked playing card games. From War to Crazy Eights to something called “Pishy Paishy,” my friends and I had a good time occasionally playing them indoors when the weather wasn’t so nice. I also tried Poker, but that didn’t go very far. I liked board games, like Monopoly (but only when there was enough time to play this long, money-oriented game), Clue (my very favorite), and later, The Game of Life (not terribly exciting, but good for a few laughs). Scrabble was fun too, and more to this English major’s liking because it involves words.

I don’t object to games occasionally at parties, but I admit to being coerced reluctantly into playing and then often having a great time. This is different from scheduled weekly or monthly games. It’s just an activity to bring the group together after a hearty meal. I prefer word games, like CatchPhrase, and until a Halloween party a few years ago, I warmed up to a sketching game, like Pictionary. That is, until I was given a challenging task—drawing an oil well (I can’t remember what I was supposed to be depicting). I just couldn’t make my scribbling clear to my team, and we lost. Nix that game from now on.

Today, I don’t care if occasional games are on the party agenda or not, but I’m happier when we forget about them or time runs out. My only game passions these days are solo and electronic: Boggle or Solitaire. In recent years, I’ve learned of friends and colleagues who are involved in a Bunco club. I don’t know exactly what this is, but I reject it out of principle.

On the web site, My Jewish Learning, Senior Editor Meredith Lewis says, “It's…said that when the last woman of a mah-jongg groups dies, it's her job to ‘bring’ the mah-jongg set with her to the World to Come.” Sorry, Mom, that I didn’t keep up the tradition here, but I’m hoping you’re up there playing regularly.