Story by Marianne Salza
Plastic mahjong tiles clicked against each other as players shuffled a pile before building their 38-piece walls in the community room of the West End Branch Library on April 5. Friends, Audrey Tedeman and Julia Forbes have been offering American mahjong lessons and games twice a month since September 2022.
“The group we have is amazing. They’re playing on their own. They have fun,” beamed Tedeman. “They wanted to find a game, and they found each other.”
Players of all experience levels not only assemble suits of bams, dragons, and flowers, but utilize their organizational skills and think flexibly while forming friendships.
“A sense of community was our goal,” Forbes revealed. “I enjoy getting to know new people. We have women come from the West End and Beacon Hill.”
American mahjong is a variation of the Chinese game. Four players receive colorful racks to line their tiles on. The first person to compile a sequence of 14 tiles wins the match.
Tedeman and Forbes laughed that despite the group gathering in the library, the competition can become boisterous; especially when a player is triumphant.
“I like the social aspect, and the challenge of seeing if you can get the tiles in order,” shared novice, Karen Grethen.
Tedeman noted that many people played American mahjong online during the Covid-19 pandemic; but she enjoys the fun of sitting around a table with others.
“I prefer in-person, talking to people. It’s more challenging. The computer does a lot for you,” said Tedeman, a retired teacher and healthcare worker. “My family used to play a long time ago. I recruited Julia, and other friends, and started our own little gang. We had a great turn out. It was amazing.”
Forbes was born in Hong Kong; and although she has only played American mahjong for three years, she had always been intrigued by the beauty of the tile sets.
“The game is getting more popular. For example, Julia Roberts, and other celebrities play the game,” noted Forbes, a retired occupational therapist, who also worked in the computer software industry for decades. “I wanted to learn to challenge my brain and make me think. It takes a while to learn the rules and tiles. It’s a great game.”
Tedeman and Forbes are West End residents, on the library board, and members of a book club together. Players describe the ladies as patient and generous with their time.
The American mahjong group is sponsored by Friends of the West End Library. Tiles and racks are provided. Experienced and new players are welcome to join at no cost. The group meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, from 1:30-3:30pm, at the West End Library, 151 Cambridge Street, Boston. Tedeman and Forbes encourage those interested to email them at [email protected] or [email protected]. “I like meeting new people. I’m new to the community,” said West End resident, Charlotte Gross, who moved to Boston from Florida. “I thought this was the best way to start making friends and play the game I love