I left my house with the quilt and everything I could find that had any hints of wind or rain. As I headed for the first of 4 Quilt Groups, it looked like it might just really storm!
Movies, Songs and Books
I was hoping for a crashing rainstorm as we sat around the quilt at Silverado, brainstorming old songs. Everyone knew Singing in the Rain and It's Raining, It's Pouring. Some even sang along with Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head.
We talked about stormy skies and rain clouds and about the kinds of clouds that don't bring rain, but bring hours of entertainment with the pictures they make in sky.
We looked at photos of clouds, which isn't quite as good as the real thing.
Everyone loved the bunny cloud.
At Atria, we talked about storms and I learned that 2 in our group had relatives who survived The Great Storm of Galveston in 1900. Catherine's mother had been a child when they lost their home. Dorothy's grandmother was so frightened by Galveston memories that in the years that followed, she always sat out storms in the closet. Dorothy chuckled to recall the image she had of her grandmother, sitting on a chair in the closet with her bible...and a hot toddie!
Children and Rain
All my groups of seniors shared similar memories of childhood, splashing in puddles and making mud pies. We remembered the yellow slickers and rubber boots that children used to wear. Some remembered being scared by storms and others remembered their pets running away during storms.
Lucille recalled living in East Bernard during the hurricane of 1932, when they lost their house, a cow, chickens and their cotton crop. "On Sunday we didn't go to church. We went out into the fields and searched for any clothes we could find." Luckily Lucille could find some humor in her memory. "We lost the barn, too. In fact the only thing left standing was the privy!" She laughed hard at that image.
We talked about the windiest places we've visited. Beaches and Chicago were high on the list. We talked memories of kite flying and climbing windmills. We listed images that show the wind, from blowing trees to clotheslines, smoke from a chimney and long hair in the breeze.
At Silverado, we created wind with fans. We ended up with a bit of a tornado when we got out some feathers and blew some bubbles along with the some fierce fan waving!
Then we talked about wind instruments and tried out some pan pipes with our own wind!
With the Kids
By the time I reached the Shelter in the late afternoon, the rain still had not come and the kids were extra wound up. They needed a rain game to use up some energy.
I didn't have a game, but we worked together and made one up. The pink cloud pillow turned into a magic cloud that could rain down anything you wanted. We passed the cloud around the group singing, Rain Rain Go Away. The child holding the cloud at the end of the song got to run around the quilt letting the cloud rain down on top of all the kids' heads. I guess I should have known I could not wear the kids out. They only got wilder. But it was so fun to see their little game come to life and to have a glimpse at what their perfect rain storm would be. Our cloud rained cats once and cookies twice. We had toys raining down and one little girl changed her mind and said, "It's raining God!"
What I learned:
My most successful themes seem to involve nature. Whether you are from the city or country...whether you are a child or an adult...rich or poor... you have experienced rain.
I fell asleep thinking about all the stories and opinions and words of wisdom that were shared. I love drifting off to thoughts like that. The only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been thinking those thoughts while a gentle rain pattered down on the roof!
An Unexpected Adventure
A week ago I was in Cozumel for 7 hours. That is a sinfully short amount of time, but that's what you get as a cruise ship passenger. My daughter and I decided to spend the morning wandering the non-touristy side streets of the village, before heading to the beach. But plans changed when we found a school.
As Heidi and I wandered, we lugged towels, sunscreen and books...and the quilt. We could at least make use of the quilt on the beach, since two days earlier our plans fell through to use the quilt with children in Honduras. We had made arrangements to visit a school, but weather prevented the ship from making it into port. So, in the beach bag, I also carried Pickles the puppet and a large supply of play-doh, just in case we should happen to run across a school.
We Heard Children!
We did. We heard the laughter and squealing of children a block away. We moved towards the sound and found Jardin de Ninos. We could see kids and teachers through the colorful gates.
We let ourselves in and walked towards an office, off of the courtyard. The woman at the desk spoke no English, but we showed her our bag of donations and she nodded and pointed us towards a male teacher. The young man had a pleasant look on his face as he watched over the children who were all busily playing with stuffed animals and magnifying glasses.
The young teacher spoke no English but he seemed to understand my gestures. In just seconds he had the eager children seated in a large circle. We could have just handed out the containers of Play-doh, but the teacher and kids seemed receptive, so I whipped out the quilt in the center of the group and had them scoot in. The large group of kids seemed amazingly focused. Most were smiling up at me, and a few were quietly examining the quilt with their magnifying glasses.
The Puppet Pays a Visit
I decided to go ahead and use the puppet, since the group seemed ready to be entertained. I pantomimed that there was something inside the bag...sleeping. I invited them to sing "Wake Up!" with me and expected the same blank stares I had from my last non-English speaking group. But these children caught on quickly and chimed in with brave voices.
The Animals Meet Pickles
As soon as Pickles the giraffe emerged from his sleeping bag, the children with animals came to life! Arms reached up, holding well loved bears, bunnies and penguins, all jumping and dancing to get my attention. Pickles had to chat with them all. The kids holding the magnifying glasses got to examine the giraffe's fur,eyes and ears.
Some of the kids wanted their animal to have a pickle tickle.
Some kids thought a pickle tickle on the chin was a good idea. Then all the kids except maybe 2 very shy ones, had to have a chin tickle.
And One Adult
A little boy's mom wanted to have a chin tickle, too.
Passing out Play-doh
A few of the kids kept an eye on Heidi who was getting the Play-doh ready to hand out. She could at least understand some of their Spanish and told the kids that we did indeed have something for them. I held up the containers one at a time and the kids called out the colors in Spanish, before I handed over the supply to their teacher. I was sure I didn't have the skills to handle all the color requests that kids have when there are options. But now that I think about it, I'll bet these children would have gratefully accepted whatever color they were given.
The kids made sure to give Pickles a few tickles before we left. And as we scurried towards the gates to leave, their teacher organized them quickly in a group chant. "Good Bye! Good Bye!" We could hear their voices as we reached the street!
What I learned from visiting Jardin de Ninos:
I guess, in ritzy classrooms filled with overwhelming options, maybe this simple activity would never work. I so wish I could have stayed to observe and learn more.
There was nothing needy and clingy about how the kids handled the animals and magnifying glasses, but you could tell they were valued. They never put them down.
I walked away with a great reminder about simplicity. I will always remember the image of these joyful children clutching magnifying glasses and small stuffed animals. These simple, uncomplicated objects allowed these children to share and learn in such a refreshing way.
Another Young Friend in Chile
I met Felipe while staying in our hosteria in Los Quenes.
Under the Grape Arbor
One afternoon, I spread the quilt on the table and tossed out some squares of material and pens. Felipe was very curious.
My nephew, Andy explained in Spanish that I was making a new quilt and needed help. Felipe was more than happy to decorate some squares for my on-going project.
Felipe decorated one square for me to use in the project and then 2 more squares to give his Mama and Papa. Then we played. We got out the scarves I'd used with the kids earlier that day in the school. We juggled and played catch and got a little wild for a while.
Communicating with Bead Necklaces
Then I brought out some old Mardi Gras beads. It's amazing how much language you can share by making pictures with beads. We taught each other lots of words.
One More Square
I'll be taking home one more piece to add to the future quilt! Felipe's square will join other squares made by friends I've met through the old quilt. I can't ever bring all these wonderful people together, but at least they will be connected in some way!
I don't have to have a group to enjoy a quilt
adventure. This was one of the most pleasant, peaceful times I've ever had gathering around the quilt.
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.