Mahjong is a tile game that originated in 19th century China and links back to Confucius and his love of birds. The “twittering of the sparrows,” or shuffling and tinkling of the tiles, signals the start of the game. At The Garlands, the Mahjong bird metaphor continues, as in “birds of a feather flock together” to play the ancient game regularly . . . that is until COVID-19 put an abrupt halt to game-time gaggles.
Garlands member and Mahjong-lover, Carleen Smith, started playing two years ago when The Garlands offered a four-week beginner’s Mahjong class. There she met up with friends, including Nancy Leonard, Marilyn Helberg, and Sally Leffew. Along with other Garlands members, the ladies played weekly until COVID-19 and the need for social distancing struck. Carleen decided that quarantine wouldn’t get in the way of their brain exercise, fun and companionship, so she merged her love of the ancient game with her knowledge of 21st-century technology and taught her friends how to play Mahjong virtually . . . via Zoom!
Nancy was all in! “While Mahjong takes some skill and individual prowess, what I really missed the most was my buddies,” says Nancy. “I cherish the companionship, the laughs, and the relaxation we gain by being together.”
Marilyn adds, “It’s such a good game for the mind, and it is just plain fun! The only difference now is that we have to always check the batteries on both the iPhone and iPad so there is no running out of juice in the middle of a game!”
Sally, who recently learned how to FaceTime and Zoom, is happy to play the game online with her friends, learn from each other and share thoughts and laughs.
For now, the Garlands Mahjong sparrows are twittering in cyberspace, and that’s a very good thing according to Nancy. “It helps keep us sane during this very unusual period of time.”