January with Kids at the Women's Shelter
"Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend", by Calvin Alexander Ramsey & Bettye Stroud, was the perfect book to help get us started.
I sat on the quilt outside with the kids, since our January day was warm and sunny. I could hardly get through a page with all the questions from the kids. "Is it a wedding!" A 6 year old asked when she saw the crowds and flowers in John Holyfield's final illustration. It was sad to have these kids, all African American, pondering about who this man was and why he died. But as kids will do, they found the positive. "Dr. King got his wish! He got to have Belle pull his wagon when he died!" "I think that one is Belle for sure!" Said another child, pointing to the mule in full view.
Visiting Gee's Bend
I told the kids how I once visited Gee's Bend where the women still make quilts from scraps, like their great, great, grandma's did.
We talked about how Dr. King liked it when people worked together and how quilts are often made by the cooperation of a few people. They liked seeing how many different shapes were in this old quilt of Mary Anne's. Different shapes and colors, like all the different people who helped make the quilt.
Little Quilts for Little Kids
What Would MLK Do?
This mini project didnt have kids cooperating on one large quilt, but they still had to share materials... which for kids, is sometimes a big enough challenge. "Hey she's copying me!!" That was another problem, that required a reminder about how Dr. King would expect us to listen to each other and not shout.
Working together is a wonderful thing. But sometimes it's not a bad idea to find our own space and just work alone. Even if that means finding a patch of sidewalk... with bugs. "Miss Beth! There are ants over here!"
What Did I Learn?
I was a little surprised at how little these children (ages 4 to 9) knew about Dr. King. I was glad I was able to use this wonderful book as a tool. I'm guessing they will remember 2 things about what we discussed. They'll remember Belle, the Mule. They loved her. And I think they'll remember that I am very, very old!! They could hardly believe it when I told them "Yes I was alive when Dr. King lived. His funeral was on my 11th birthday."
Where the Cooking Happens!
No one could guess what the green plastic, 3-pronged device was. It's a popcorn eater! It even has a tiny salt shaker built into the handle.
Cooking and Kitchen Music!
When do people sing or whistle in the kitchen? I laughed about singing rounds while doing dishes with my sister. "Does anyone dance in the kitchen?" I asked. We ended up using kitchen "tools" as percussive instruments as we moved to the Bluesy rhythms of "Last Meal". (Which is actually an amusing song about a prisnoner's last meal)
Cookbooks and Stories
Lots of kitchens have a shelf for cookbooks. We talked about our favorite books and recipes. Then we created our own ridiculous recipe with an "Ad-Lib", kind of game. After the group came up with the needed adjectives, nouns etc. we had an amazing recipe for "Obama's favorite... dish of oranges and green beans...served in a jar... after sitting in a corner for 3 hours... On and on.. you get the idea.
It's funny how just seeing an egg beater or a rolling pin can bring back memories. We had some demonstrations filled with good humor! The most amusing thing to me was the fact that our twenty-something Ron, who was visiting one of my groups hardly recognized any of our stuff! I showed him one of the uses for the rolling pin by raising it over my head... and pretending to chase him out of my kitchen!
I had fun sharing an antique salesmen sample ice box and stove. I also had some dollhouse furniture to share. Most of the folks I meet with didn't grow up in a generation when little girls had toy kitchens like I did. My own children grew up in a time with colorful "Little Tykes" toy kitchens. We began to wonder if fewer kids will "play kitchen" in the the future. Maybe they'll just "play chef".
Remembering the Smells
I asked my friends at the Center to close their eyes and imagine a kitchen from long ago. Maybe it was in their home or a grandmother's home. "Imagine something delicious that you might have smelled in a kitchen long ago!" After a while we shared. Dorothy was excited, remembering the catfish every Friday night. That made me smile. Not a smell I expected to hear. But Rosa looked sad when it was her turn to share. With a heavy accent she explained that her mother died when she was 3 and she had no memories of her mother's cooking. I had to work fast to shift the focus. "Did you ever cook for your own children?" Her eyes lit up as she described the tamales she made for her kids.
More and More and More
But with each year, there's more stuff, more to talk about and more to share.
The Growing Quilt
I had to share the colorful new quilt that is continuing to grow with each new square personalized by friends I've met around the old quilt. We read the messages and admired the drawings by kids and adults from different states and countries.
Cathy saw the chairs and was reminded of an artist who paints pictures of chairs. Marie picked the brown square with antique cars and told about the very first car she and her husband owned. It was a hand-me-down model T that needed cranking to start the engine. Ken saw the colorful boats and instead of telling us a story about ships (I know he a few of those) he instead was reminded of the clothing of small children. Sweet.
Almost everyone in all my groups had quilting experience of their own, or at least a relative. But none had much desire or patience to take on quilting anymore. "Too much work!" Many laughed. Even the idea of quilting something small like the baby bib sounded overwhelming!
Who Else Quilts?
These miniature quilts reminded us of the Amish who chose bold colored fabric with no prints.
More Work of the Amish
Under the Table
Before I even shared the book, Stichin' and Pullin' by Patricia McKissack, Dot started sharing memories about being under her mother's quilt frame, "...just messing around, bumping into feet!" When she saw the illustration by Cozbi Cabrera, she laughed as if she remembered more.
More From Dot
When I asked if there were any men who quilted, Ken said he didn't sew, but he had a special job when his mom and friends quilted. "I threaded the needle!" He laughed!
Quilts With the Kids
My 5th stop for Quilt Sharing was at the Shelter where we sat outside in the shade on top of the quilt. (The weather turned lovely that day) After a lot of discussion about how a quilt is different from a blanket and how many uses there are for quilts, the kids designed their own with tiny squares of fabric. It was a fun way to end our week.
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.