Canasta! Who knew?!
When I was a little girl, around the age of 4, I lived with my maternal grandparents. Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. Cards were central to their social life. Porch. Sea breezes. Women over here. Men over there. Canasta and mahjong for the ladies. Gin and pinochle for the men. I became pretty adept at the women’s games. Perhaps that was the start of my lifelong kibbitzing.
Fast forward. Never played again. Never even thought about it. Until now. My best friend and college roommate Susan suggested we learn because a friend of hers needed to replace two players who had moved away. Because I say yes to just about everything, I said, “Sure. Why not?” Turns out others had the same idea and we were shut out of lessons at the 92d Street Y. They were fully booked!
Thankfully, as it turns out. We started taking private lessons with a woman recommended by Susan’s friend. The great news was that she had six other women who also wanted to learn, and joining us to that group made for a perfect 8. (It takes, in case you don’t know, 4 people to play.) And so we began.
Elyse is the perfect teacher. We took two full day lessons and then another session with her coaching and watching us play. She was a registered nurse, and then a practicing lawyer for decades, and now a certified canasta master. She is smart and funny and understands the game and the nuances so well that she could explain it to 6 year olds. She is so charming that she has even gotten a bunch of men to play. You can reach Elyse at CanastaLessons.com.
And the group? We have been playing together, once a week or so, for months. Provided at least four of us can make it, we play at somebody's apartment. The women in our “league” are fabulous. Smart, edgy, engaged, not taking themselves or the game too seriously. Just the right amount of thinking and playing and strategy and chat. Admittedly, they are all quite a bit younger than Susan and me, but they don't seem to mind. We all look forward to our games. It's a blast.
We all had visions of blue haired ladies playing canasta on the beach in Florida. It was their game. Not ours. Maybe later. Not now. Wrong. It's just a really good game (invented by a lawyer in Uruguay in the late 1930’s). Takes thinking and strategy but not so much that you can’t have fun along the way. None of us have blue hair, but we love it.
Having said that, I don’t think I am ready to add mahjong to my repertoire. Too much, even for me.