Boats and Ships, Again!
I've used a boat theme at least 5 times, in the past 10 years.
It's always a fun time. Everyone has memories or thoughts about boats.
In both senior groups, the old sailing ship got the most attention. In the morning at the center, Ms. M turned it over and over, looking at the curved sails, made of cut horns.
Everyone wondered if the little ship would sink if we put it in a pond.
Ms. M said she'd never been on a boat. But she described standing on the riverbank with her brother and jumping up and down, waving to the boats that passed by.
Boats for Work
We compared boats for pleasure and boats for work. Ms. W remembered a stormy cruise, where everyone on board got sick but her.
The little boat from Thailand, reminded Mrs. D of the boats she saw in Guam, when her husband was in the service. She described buying food from the floating shops.
Some could remember toy boats, on ponds, in puddles... in bathtubs.
Many remembered making boats from newspaper. I remembered watching my own homemade, popsicle-stick boat collapse... as the water softened the Elmer's glue.
Movies, Books and Songs
We brainstormed movies and books, with a focus on boats or ships.
I played some recorded music that related to our theme. "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" put everyone in a thoughtful mood. When I asked for a boat themed song suggestion, there was a pause. Then Mrs. W's voice began in almost a whisper. I didn't recognize the old spiritual, but most of the others did and began to join in.
We sat around the quilt, ignoring all the boats and books. For quite some time, I listened as the group went from one song to the next. The group swayed and many closed their eyes, as they hummed and sang.
My usually loud and playful group, had a sweetly subdued tone. As one hymn blended into the next I recognized the words that linked the music. Sea... anchors... sailing... piloting... I watched their eyes smile, each time a new song was introduced. I've never seen this group, so soft and peaceful.
Eventually the focus went back to the table. Ms. H was drawn to the green canoe. She picked it up and told a story about working for the Red Cross and using a canoe for rescue. There was a waterfall and an alligator in her story... oh my! As talking continued, Mrs. W's grandson arrived to take her to the doctor. The group greeted the young man and wanted to know if he had any boat memories to share. He smiled shyly and said he couldn't think of any.
Suddenly, Ms M. reached over and handed the grandson a handwritten bible verse. This is what she does. I always tuck mine in a pocket, but he stopped and studied the words. Then he lowered his head and spoke softly, "Thank you. It's been a hard week." One by one the folks at the table stood and gave him a hug. He wiped his eyes and thanked them. What an amazing, gentle group.
My memory care group in the afternoon was very different, but they were also full of sweet surprises. The sleepy, after-lunch group, was nodding off around the table when I arrived. I hoped the boats would liven things up.
I spread the quilt and unloaded one boat at a time. I held up the red rowboat, with its one oar. They all seemed to recognize the type of boat, but no one could come up with the name. Frances shook her head and laughed. "You'd go in circles if you just had one paddle!" I could see her mind working, in her eyes.
I told the group that this little fisherman and boat, was made by a man in Guatemala.
"Where is Guatemala?" Someone asked. I fumbled to find a map on my phone, but Mr. George took over. He had been so quiet before. I worried that he didn't want to be there. But he seemed to come to life. "That's in Central America!" He announced with confidence.
We got off on a tangent about the Mississippi River, when I held up the plastic raft.
"Rafts always makes me think of a famous author." I began. "He was a writer, but he also once piloted a steamboat on the Mississippi." Maureen waved a hand. It took a moment and then she announced with delight, "Mark Twain!" I cheered and held up the book. Maureen reminded me, that she had been a librarian for many years.
For nearly 90 minutes, my group around the quilt shared and laughed and sang and surprised me with their stories. What a sharp and giving bunch! I thanked them all and told them how I would be thinking about their stories for days. Mr. George suggested, "Next time bring a tape recorder and you'll be able to remember forever."
I packed up as the group headed out, but Chickie wanted to stay a while longer. At one point she leaned towards me and smiled with an outreached hand. "Thank you so much for coming and sharing." I held her hand and assured her that I was the one who needed to do the thanking. Then she explained gently, "You help us remember and you help us think in a different way." I was touched... and then I was amused. She laughed and pointed to my gigantic tote bag. "What does your husband think of all that stuff of yours?"
I drove home smiling. I know my afternoon group will not remember what we did. Most won't even remember me. But they reminded me to enjoy the memories, for the moment.
As I unpacked my stuff at home, I couldn't stop thinking about all the wonderful people I'd spent time with. Some aren't much older than me, but many are the same age as my parents. And that made me think...
The next day, I called my 91 year old dad and asked him if he had any memories about boats.
Of course he couldn't think off the top of his head. Few can. But after a bit, we were laughing over memories of Central Park in 1964, when my brother's model boat floated out of reach.
Staten Island Ferry
We talked about my dad's daily trips to work, on the Staten Island ferry. They were building the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge that year.
"And what about Uncle Bob's boat, at Table Rock Lake? That's when I learned to waterski!"
I told Dad about my Quilt Groups and we talked about the idea of me visiting him in Missouri and bringing the quilt. He lives in an assisted living center now. Could this work?
I was stunned when he thought that it might be a good idea. We'll see!
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.