Umbrellas and More!
Rain and Wind Theme... when Houston is flooding?
I had planned a Rain and Wind theme for the third week of April, but fretted over whether I should go ahead with it. I hadn't planned on Houston roads and airports being shut down due to flooding... on the morning of my first group!
My first gathering was cancelled since the community center closed down for 2 days. The other 3 facilities that I visited were residential, so they were more than happy to have someone show up in lousy weather.
I kept the focus on the fun stuff of rain. Umbrellas bring out the kid in most of us, especially when we have a few tiny ones to fiddle with. We talked about Mary Poppins and children jumping off porches with umbrella-parachutes.
I laughed about my brother making a twirling carousel with an upside down umbrella... with Matchbox cars, instead of horses.
Poems and Music
We read some poems about umbrellas, then listened to "Singing in the Rain" and imagined the scene with Gene Kelly dancing with his umbrella. Many had fond childhood memories of splashing through puddles and making mud pies.
Our rain nostalgia reminded many of the old tune, "Rain, Rain, Go Away!" In each group, all it took was one person's singing reminder, to get the whole group singing.
Rain or Wind?
Everyone had a chance to pick a card from the WIND or RAIN brainstorming cards. The rain cards prompted discussions about spring sprinkles and fierce storms... floods and drought.
The wind questions got us off on wonderful tangents. We remembered flying kites and puffing on pinwheels.
We pictured where we'd seen clothes blowing on the line and windmills turning. At least a couple had climbed a windmill. Some recalled hearing the sound of wind at night and the eerie sounds of branches scratching on the window.
Sounds of Rain
We passed around a rainstick to help us recall the sound of rain. We agreed that wasn't exactly the best example. We liked talking about it better.
"We had a tin roof in Louisiana. Ahh, the rain on the roof made a wonderful sound!" "Did you ever sleep in a tent and her the rain sprinkling down on the canvas?"
I so wish I had brought a recording of rain so we could have closed our eyes and imagined being somewhere else. But the sound of rain might have put us to sleep anyway.
More Music About Rain
Luckily I did have more recorded music, which is always a good way to keep a group from nodding. I was surprised at how many recognized and sang along with "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head". And many jumped in to chant along with "The Rain in Spain Falls..." But the most surprising reactions were to the song, "Stormy Weather". That song isn't from my era, but it clearly sparked memories for many.
I watched smiles and sighs and swaying bodies. My dear friend Martha closed her eyes and lifted her chin to absorb the music. She smiled and her lips moved with the words. I wanted so badly to ask her what the song reminded her of. But she didn't need my intrusion. She was happily being transported to another time.
What Did I Learn? I feel a little guilty to have enjoyed a rain theme when there were so many Houstonians affected by the flooding. There was at least one nursing home in the area that was evacuated. But these folks have all earned their right to enjoy their world. I learned how easy it is to ignore the news for a bit and focus on the good of rain.
I packed very little when I headed off to meet my Quilt Groups last week. I love a theme that can revolve around one hands-on prop.
The Rotary Phone
The sweetest call in that group was when Mrs R. decided she would call her husband in heaven. Sometimes I'm more cautious with my higher functioning friends who are aware that a loved one is no longer with us. "Okay, that sounds good..." I began. "But we're only making happy phone calls today. So make sure he knows what a good time we're having around this table!" Whew. I lucked out. Her quick little call was light and sweet.
The Old Toy Phone
This wobbly, antique toy prompted a few memories and ooohs and ahhhs. It reminded many of talking into a big wooden wall phone. Jeanette remembered being at her grandparent's house and answering one of those phones to learn that her baby brother had been born!
Henrietta said her family went down the street to a neighbor's, if they had to make a call. Ramona was young when she got a job cleaning houses. She was alone cleaning, when the phone rang. She laughed as she described her confusion. She had never used a phone and had no idea what to do.
A Few Princesses!
Most of the seniors are a generation older than me, but we have much in common. None of us had phones in our bedrooms growing up.
We chuckled over the miniature Princess model, which would have been my dream phone. Nancy said she had one in later years and Nathaniel said his little sister got a job just so she could save up and buy a pink princess phone.
The Cheapest Phone
Phone Booth Talk
We all recalled phone booths, but few of us remembered that they used to actually advertise them!
Where Are they Now?
We wondered where you could even find a phone booth or pay phone today. I showed a photo of a phone booth I found in a yard in Comfort, TX with a mannequin inside.
Lucy had been an operator for an Army base. She took one call that came in as "Priority". She laughed that she got quite an earful from an angry woman who was trying to reach a serviceman. The woman did a little venting, like many other callers. "He is the father of my child!"
This photo conjured up good and bad memories. One woman shared the story of her brother having to rescue a man who got electrocuted while working on the phone lines. Another told about riding in the car as a child and lazily counting the poles. I read a poem to one group titled, Telephone Poles. The rhythm of John Updike's words had the same sort of the hypnotic effect that pole counting probably had. I may have put a few to sleep.
Gossip on the Phone
Everyone had something to say about phone gossip after an image of Norman Rockwell's, The Gossips. We had funny stories of party lines and all the problems. Mr. J had to explain to a young staff member who had joined our group, just what a party line was. The young woman could not believe that he had 8 households connected to his family's party line!
These miniature phones spurred on one conversation about small phones today. So many talked about the frustrations of modern cell phones and bad etiquette, of many people who use them.
Henrietta held up the brand new I-phone that her children had given her. "Oh I just hate it. It has a computer and everything else in it. But all I know how to do is answer it." So many wished we could go back to the old dial phones.
while she jabbered away, underneath the phone nook that was built into the wall. I could just picture her as a young girl, gabbing on and on while she continuously shifted position on her cushion... until she managed to tip over on the ottomon and the heavy phone came clunking down, breaking both of her brand new front teeth.
But my dear fun and feisty, Dot put a halt to the nonsense. "Now what are we doing this for!" She shook her head and seemed clearly annoyed. Luckily I always have a little something for everyone. "Here you go, Dot! " I laughed back. I switched on the I-pod speakers to play a recording of the Andrew Sisters singing, The Telephone Song.
Andrews Sisters were probably at their peak. "Oh I remember the most special call I ever received." Dorothy began. "It was Thanksgiving and we were all seated around the table when the phone rang." It was her husband on the line. He had just returned to the States after 2 years of service during the war. Dorothy, who is one of the most positive of all who gather at the quilt, pushed to keep her story upbeat, but her voice caught and she paused. "For 2 years we wrote every day, but I hadn't heard his voice in all that time." She described the emotions she felt when they spoke. "But Jim didn't have time for me to get emotional." She smiled. "He said there was a long line behind him, waiting for their turns on the phone. "
What Did I Learn?
The stories filled my head with images and Dorothy's created a double image. Like a split screen, I can first picture Dorothy in the phone, with the family listening from the table. And then I see her husband, in uniform, with an anxious line behind him. I imagine he had just as hard a time as Dorothy, holding back his emotions.
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.