Remembering Valentine's Day
With my senior groups we remembered the child's version of this holiday. Packages of tiny cards with white envelopes, conversations hearts, parties in school with pink cupcakes and red napkins...mostly happy memories.
Valentine's Day for Teenagers
Some of us learned to dread the holiday as we got older. It was a day when the popular kids flaunted their flowers and boxes of candy. The spotlight shined on the few who walked down the school halls holding hands. By high school, the special day was no longer about class parties for all.
Valentine's Day, Now!
Many of the folks I meet with each week are missing loved ones. I have to be sensitive about what kinds of memories can surface with thoughts of Valentine's Day. We focused on all the different kinds of love we can share. Children, friends, pets... There are lots of kinds of love.
We made our own cards at the Community Center. I noticed Nellie was looking a little sad. She said she would be missing her mother, who used to live with her. I told her this would be my first Valentine's Day since my mom had passed. We made cards for each other and promised to think of each other on Valentine's Day.
At Silverado we talked about all the sweet treats of Valentine's Day. Our least favorite treat... candy conversation hearts with their messages that make no sense...
And we loved listing Romantic Foods! Champagne, Italian food, chocolate covered strawberries...!
We listed our favorite couples like Rhett Butler & Scarlet O'Hara, Lucy & Ricky, Romeo & Juliet...
Words of Wisdom
Then we had a serious moment that was unplanned. Katie Lu, who is new to our group told a sweet story about meeting her husband. A young aide who had joined us seemed touched by the story and asked, "What is the key? How do you make a relationship last for so many years?" I wish I could have recorded all the wonderful words of wisdom shared by the whole group. Words that included honesty, humor and keeping things simple.
Cheers to Friendship!
The Atria group gathered on Valentine's morning. It was a little early for champagne, but we did have something bubbly with a little chocolate. We heard more good stories and my favorite was about Dorothy's husband proposing on Valentine's Day!
What I Learned
5 year old Andrea was the one who taught me this week. I had been overly cautious to keep things light so that memories of past loved ones wouldn't bring sadness. But Andrea with all her innocence, flipped through our scrapbook and found a picture of my mom. "There's your mom!" She smiled. "Do you miss her?" "Yes I do." I answered, and then smiled because I was happy to be reminded of my mom. Maybe I was being overly cautious with the others. Maybe they wouldn't have minded a little more remembering!
That's a broad theme! I narrowed it down to artists... and that's still huge.
Kids and Art
First we talked about ourselves as artists. Most of us could remember when we were young and not intimidated by bright tempera paint and fat colorful crayons. We tried to remember what it was like to feel good about what we created, before we started getting critical.
Many recalled their favorite things to draw, like houses with chimneys and clouds and a sun in the corner. I loved drawing rain slickers and umbrellas.
We all agreed we lost some of our artistic confidence over the years, but we decided a beret could help bring some back!
Even I wore a red beret, although it didn't help me too much!
We studied the work of different artists on postcards and tried to find similarities of topics and styles. But one painting of a mother and 2 children by Picasso, inspired the most discussion with all of my groups.
At the community center, Lila compared these 2 cards and noticed how they represented such different worlds or classes. "The first mother looks happy in her nice home. The other mother is outside a village and she looks worried." At Silverado, Betty studied the face of the Picasso mother and said, "She looks like she's fleeing. Maybe she has no home. She looks tired." And in my final group at Atria, the Picasso card once again surfaced in the big pile. The group noticed the colors of the sky and the overall heaviness of the mother. We wondered who these people were.
Music and Painting
We experimented with a little music in all the groups. I taped a variety of pieces from Copeland to Irish jigs and let the music inspire different kinds of painting. In my first groups, they just enjoyed the fun of imagining the paint. Maybe it was a little silly, but they seemed to have fun painting the table or even the air with sweeping, dotting, zigzagging gestures that matched the sound.
But my Atria group seemed ready for the real thing. So out came the paints and on came the music! I was delighted that no one seemed to be bogged down by adult hesitation. With the delight of young children, the brushes went straight to work as the music came on! We even had one excited discovery by an artist, who no longer has full use of her right hand. "I didn't realize I could paint with my left hand!"
What I Learned:
Yes, I can still have fun with paint!
At age 6 I adored my easel and thought I was an artist. At age 12 I received a B in art and never took another art class.
At age 55, the folks I gather with reminded me how to enjoy again. Painting Without Worry!
A Silly Collection
A lot of people collect postcards, but my mom had an impressive collection she called, "My Silly Postcards". I have her large cardboard box that holds over 100 embroidered, quilted, wooden, metal, plastic and knitted cards. There are postcards that include samples of seeds, sand, salt and Spanish moss.
For a really simple Quilt Sharing, all I needed to do was bring the box!
All these crazy cards have always amused me, but I didn't realize they would bring such smiles to so many faces.
The card with the winking granny kept drawing the most laughs. Mom probably discovered that one, years ago in some Ozark Hillbilly gift shop!
As with all props, the postcards reminded us of stories. A discussion about writing postcards and letters made one of the women recall being a child in Mexico, unable to afford a pen or pencil. This dear woman had her daughter interpret for her while she described the sharp stones they wrote with on slate. Our discussion grew more serious as others began to remember special letters that had received over the years.
No Time for Postcards!
In my last group there was so much talking that we didn't have time to even open the box of postcards! As soon I mentioned a theme about letters and postcards, Lucille disappeared and returned with a collection of cards and letters to share....all written in Czech! Sending mail overseas reminded Bud of writing home when he was in the service. "We just wrote FREE on the envelope. No stamps needed!" Betty remembered a nosy mailman who read all the postcards and Lucille said they could hear the postman coming because he always whistled.
What I Learned: A theme like this makes me feel old and cranky, whining about the good old days when people took the time to write thank you notes and love letters! Ha! In 2040, when I'm in my 80's chatting with peers, will we sit reminiscing about the days when there was mail delivery? I wonder.
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.