Mahjong, Knitting, Dominoes and Book Clubs: Our Members Stay Active and Stay Connected
Have you played Mahjong? If not, players at the Nashua branch are eager to introduce you to the game.
Each Tuesday (1:00pm), Thursday (8:30am), and Friday (1:00pm) tables in the lobby of the Nashua branch are filled with active older adults having a lots of laughs playing Mahjong.
What is Mahjong? Mahjong is a tile-based game that was developed in the 19th century in China and has spread throughout the world since the early 20th century. It is commonly played by four players (with some two or three-player variations found in parts of China, Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia – and Nashua!).
Bryna Kamin, an active Y member and volunteer of the year, introduced the game to our Y about seven years ago. “I was swimming one day with Sandy (another member) and we were talking. I play Mahjong and I asked her to play. She didn’t know the game. I was happy to teach her. We started with a table in the lobby. People walked by and watch. We taught those who didn’t know how to play. We quickly got up to four tables of players.”
Active player and Y member Gloria Levesque shares that the Y folks play the Hong Kong version, which is a different way of scoring the game. “If you can play rummy, you can play Mahjong!,” she said.
New players are welcome. Never played before? This is an inviting group and members are happy to share their love of the game and teach others to play. Some days they have as many as 20 people playing (5 tables of games going on at once!).
“We’ve been together five or six years,” Gloria said. She plays three times a week. “I was exercising upstairs at the Y. One of the women on the bike next to me invited me to play. I never played before and she assured me it was easy and fun! She said, watch and learn to play. I did and now I’m hooked!,” she said. Her Y friends nicknamed her The Mahjong Queen, and presented her with a tiara with pearls!
During the height of the pandemic, the Y players, and now fast friends, moved their games to their homes. “We were wearing masks and playing on screened porches. At Christmas time we had a holiday buffet and played Mahjong!,” Gloria said.
Gloria shared that some of the players exercise first, then head to the lobby for their games. They are a close group. If someone is going to be late or not feeling well, they text each other. If there are too many people to play in a game, they sit out and rotate new players in after two games. “Each game goes quickly, so they don’t have to wait long. We are very social and talk a lot. Sometimes we talk more than we play!”
She added, “We are close, like sisters. We text each other a lot. Some days we meet at the Y at 11:30 and pick a location for lunch before the 1:00 game starts,” They celebrate birthdays at the Y with birthday cakes or cupcakes. (Although Gloria said her friends are like sisters, there are also men that play.)
“Bryna plans a lot of activities for us,” Gloria said. Besides Mahjong, Bryna rallies the seniors to enjoy Cribbage and other card games, board games, dominoes, knitting, crocheting, and a monthly book club. They have also enjoyed pot luck lunches, salad bars, soup days, holiday parties and Bingo. Bryna also spearheads a Book Sale twice a year in the lobby with proceeds benefitting the YMCA’s annual campaign.
Bryna recently planned a Friendship Lunch. “We love getting together. We bring our own lunches and sit at one big table. We talked about where we are from.” She said this will be a regular event at the Nashua Y. Details can be found in The Scoop, a newsletter that Bryna puts out every two months with details on upcoming activities. “We all need to stay active and keep our minds busy. Our time together provides stimulation and keeps your hand in the game so to speak, the game of life,” she said.
She is also planning on a knitting or crocheting project where members will each make a 3” x 3” square and they will be sewn together to make a quilt. Her plans are to raffle that off at the Y.
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