Cooking and the Quilt
Aprons and Utensils...
...a miniature iron stove and retro cook books, for a cooking theme.
That's about all I needed with the folks at the Community Center and at Silverado. Everyone has stories about cooking disasters and favorite comfort foods. People like to talk about kitchens they remember and foods Mom made.
A Bit of Dough
Since I'm starting to catch on with this mostly Spanish speaking group, I gave them something to do with their hands.
I made some salt dough earlier, but I needed them to knead in the food coloring so I could deliver it to the Shelter kids later. What busy hands and busy mouths! I use dough to calm kids, but with this group, the noise level shot up as they colored, then played with the dough...and jabbered away!
Some sculpted faces and others made flower designs. All the while the voices hollered over one another as they threw out their favorite comfort foods. "Tamales! Mole! Enchiladas..."
After Talking About Food
We cleaned up and 2 of the women who had arrived late that morning, unpacked warm Chile Rellenos and Spanish Rice! A feast!
What a treat after all the food talk!
On to Silverado
Same props and same dough coloring task, but such a different response. Eloise worked very seriously to get the white dough to turn pink. I forgot that these hands are older and the dough needed softening.
Some seemed reluctant to touch the sticky dough. But as they worked with the rolling pin and cookie cutters, the hands seemed to grow more comfortable, as if remembering.
Vivian sighed, "I wonder if I were back in my kitchen again if I would even know how to cook a meal, now?" Those are the kinds of words that make me hold my breath for a moment. "I guess I would." She smiled and seemed satisfied.
My mom was happiest, looking through cook books. She was also glad to chime in with some singing, "If I knew you were coming, I'd a baked a cake..."
We talked comfort foods, but no Mexican food came up. More sweets and soups! And Vivian was the most intrigued with the iron stove. Her father had cooked on one!
The Dough Moves On
The next day I took the same stuff to the Quilt Kids at the Shelter. They were giddy about trying out the egg beater and the potato masher. They rolled out the wrinkles in the quilt with the rolling pin.
In fact they were more than giddy. Must be the end of the school-year energy!
Just as I'd hoped, the rolling and molding and kneading was calming to the kids. They made star sandwiches and snakes. They blended the different colors of dough and held up their creations for approval.
What I learned: Most people young and old, love talking about food. I guess I knew that. But dough, even when it doesn't have sugar and eggs and butter, can still be pretty satisfying! I loved seeing the different groups approach the dough. Some with great gusto and some slowly. But ALL seemed satisfied in the end!
Remembering with the Quilt
May 14, was Butterfly Release Day. I knew I would be missing this special day. It's one of the loveliest days of the year at Silverado. Family members and residents gather in the garden to release live butterflies in memory of the loved ones who have passed in recent months and years.
When the Quilt Group got together last week, we put together a butterfly mobile to help decorate the garden on the release day.
We used photos from our quilt gatherings to decorate each paper butterfly. It wasn't until we completed the mobile that I realized how many folks have been part of our gathering group. Each face on every butterfly helped us celebrate the friends we enjoy now, as well as the friends who have moved away or passed away. It was a nice time to be reminded of the friends I miss from these past 2 .5 years of the Quilt Group.
Molly was one of the first regulars to the group. She was always eager to participate. She loved talking about her cat and memories of growing up in the Houston area. Here she is playing a wooden slit drum on Africa Day. She loved music!
Ruth's dog, Chris came to all our meetings. He sat on her lap while Ruth looked through books and joined in discussions. She loved hearing stories and always clapped at the end.
"Charlotte often resisted invitations to join the group. "What is the purpose?" She would ask with her German accent. But she always came along when reminded there would be BOOKS!
Books weren't the only thing Charlotte was enthused about. She might laugh or frown at some of the silly games or props, but she was always first to try out a funny piece of costume or fiddle with an instrument!
Pat was a very special addition to our group. She was always game to try on a festive hat or join in some of our silly songs, but Pat was also my mother's roommate. Pat and my mom would often sit next to each other when we gathered around the quilt to share stories and conversation.
It was a comfort for me knowing my mom had the "sister" she always wanted. There was friend to share meals with, to share a room with... and in the Quilt Group, now and then I would notice one or the other reaching out to hold the other's hand.
What I learned:
I may have missed the actual Butterfly Release, but I got to experience the Quilt Group Friends "remembering". When we held up the completed mobile, there was no sadness. There was delight, as different faces were recognized on the butterflies. Some did remember faces of friends who had passed. And some were just pleased to see the faces of current friends. We all "remember in our own way.
A Theme of Mexico
As I headed towards my first group at the community center, I began to worry over my theme. Is Cinco de Mayo more of an American celebration? Since many of the seniors at the Center are from Mexico, would they find my sombrero and maracas insulting?
My group couldn't have been happier with the theme! They took turns putting on the sombrero and we even made up our own version of the Mexican Hat Dance.
They loved the maracas and probably didn't even care that half of my supply came from some preschool music set. And since I always have a few who are happiest when focused on some tiny project, I handed over some colorful electrical tape and let them go to town making the maracas more unique...than childlike.
Making a List
But it was making a list of the things we like best about Mexico, that made the group sigh and smile and remember...and argue!
Not all our Spanish speakers are from Mexico. We have some from Cuba and one from El Salvador. But they all love discussing food and flavors with great passion. When one senior called out "Pupusa!" that caused quite a flurry of discussion. I guess pupusas are Salvadorian, not Mexican!
Each member of our group had something to add, whether it was from fond memories or just picturing Mexico from the movies. When someone mentioned pinatas, I got excited because a few of the ladies began to sing the pinata song. I had only learned recently that there was such a song sung by children to accompany the batting of the pinata by the blindfolded child!
When we were finished and I was folding up the quilt, I was approached with a hug by a woman who calls Mexico home. "Thank you for giving me the chance to think about my Mexico today!" She smiled.
On to Silverado!
Such different groups and always so many surprises. My dear friends at Silverado are always game for hats and instruments. No Spanish speakers in this group, but lots of enthusiasm and some stories of travel.
I always love sharing instruments, because they can be enjoyed at almost any level. There's rarely a right or wrong to play percussion instruments.
The guiro was a hit, but the maracas were a bigger hit. I wasn't the one who started the La Cucaracha song! But before long everyone was singing it. Then I taught them a silly song about guacamole that they shook the maracas along with my singing.
After the instruments were put down, Harriet laughed about needing a siesta. That somehow lead to a discussion about workers who really labor hard for siestas. Vivian remembered back to living in Port Aurthur, when migrant workers from Mexico labored on nearby farms.
Sometimes our playful games and songs end up leading us to subjects I would never attempt on my own. A few in the group talked about how difficult the work was for the migrant workers who labored in fields during hot summers. We wondered about how hard it must have been to be away from family. With so much negative talk in the news about border control and illegal aliens, it was nice to just hear caring words about human beings.
What I learned...
I learned that my Spanish speaking group and my Seniors with Alzheimer's, are all sensitive, thoughtful people. They share their thoughts with a story or sometimes just a sigh. I wondered if my mother's sigh could have been a moment of recollection... 40 years ago, when she interviewed migrant farm workers for an article.
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.