Scary Things in the Closet
I recently found a collection of puppets, when going through a closet. Even though some look a little creepy, I do have fond memories of crazy puppet shows with my siblings. Don't ask me why I still have them, but at least I sometimes follow the "Use or Lose" rule. I decided I had to use them or get rid of them. I figured I'd find a way to use them with the Quilt Groups... even the adults.
I can get away with doing lots of strange themes with my adult groups, if I add a little history. We talked about the history of shadow puppets in China.
We talked about the history of puppets in Italy. The story of Pinocchio was written in Italy... and Sicily is known for amazing puppet shows, with marionettes in shining armor!
I shared a lot of puppets, but I didn't lug my old, not-so-shiny Sicilian Knight puppet. I brought a photo instead and told the story of my family buying him in Italy, years ago. He's been an odd part of our family for since 1969.
From Italy to the US
Punch and Judy also began in Italy... but folks at the Senior Center were more excited about what puppets are well known in the States. They reminded me of Howdy Doody. I reminded them of my favorite TV puppeteer growing up, Shari Lewis and her Lamb Chop.
I reminded them of my favorite TV puppeteer growing Of course the kids I met with reminded me about Kermit!, Shari Lewis and her Lamb Chop.
Of course the kids I met with reminded me about Kermit!
The Best Part
Besides all the puppet discussion, it was the playing that was fun. We had an extra good time in my afternoon group, since a young friend joined us.
I expected this sweet little girl to just dig in and enjoy the "toys" herself. But she went around the table sharing the puppets. She helped her older friends, fitting their hands and fingers into the puppets. She showed them how the marionette knight could wave his arm. The seniors seemed pretty delighted with the nostalgia of the puppets, but even more delighted just watching the enthusiasm of a young face.
I told the group a story about my younger brother and my dad, years ago. When David was two, my dad would come home from work and take off his shoes and entertain my eager brother with his sock covered, puppet feet. We talked about the more common fun of turning a sock into a hand puppet. Then I brought out a collection of old socks and beads and a glue gun. We set to work making sock puppets for the kids at the Shelter.
We ended up with 20 very odd looking sock puppets. Some were much more elaborate than others. Many just had 2 eyes and a nose. I was a little worried that the kids at the Shelter might find these a little odd. It is 2013 after all. Who knows about sock puppets?
Sharing at the Shelter
It was the first week of summer at the shelter and the kids were pretty wound up by late afternoon. There were also lots of kids, so I was worried there might not be enough puppets to go around. But what an amazing surprise. Every child from age
3 to 12, wanted a puppet. There was no fighting over "the best ones" and we had exactly one for each child. Not one child commented on the odd faces.
At one point, some of the older girls rushed to get the bead bracelets, that they'd made earlier in the morning.
They finished up decorating their sock puppets, then added their homemade jewelry. I had to smile!
What I Learned:
There are still "summertime kids" in the world. The kids at the shelter remind me of my childhood, free of schedules and video games. These kids were eager to play with some silly sock puppets... that were made by some sweet older folks... who also remember summer days packed with more free time than planned time.
I like starting my summer with that thought.
After years of wondering about the area known as Gee's Bend and the quilting women who live there, I finally got to visit.
Don and I knew we would be traveling through Alabama, so we planned a stop. Of course Gee's Bend is not on the way to anywhere.
This tiny community is surrounded on 3 sides by the winding Alabama River, far from any major highway.
There are no motels or inns, but through the help of the internet, I reached resident Mary Ann Pettway and she said we could stay with her... if we didn't mind her housekeeping. Mary Ann shared more than her home. She shared her town and some delicious meals and her family.
Sharing the Quilt and Gifts
But I had dragged it this far. I wanted to explain about my groups in Texas that gather around the quilt to share stories and ideas and songs. I wanted the Gee's Bend women to know how my groups admire what they do, because we only gather weekly and we don't quilt at all.
Sharing the Quilt and Gifts
The Gee's Bend Quilter's hardly had a chance to examine my not so impressive quilt because I covered it fairly quickly with all the handmade gifts from Texas. They were most excited about the "quilt cards" made by the kids at the Fort Bend Shelter. They each picked a card and seemed surprised when I assured them the cards were theirs to keep.
Men Quilt Too
I'm eager to share this photo of Tyree with the Texas kids. He studied the cards carefully before making his choice.
I'll be happy to report to the kids that men do quilt. Tyree was raised in Gee's Bend among quilting women, but had no interest in the craft when he was young. It wasn't until he went to college and began incorporating quilting techniques as an artist that he made use of the design and stitching skills that had surrounded him growing up. He's now back living in Gee's Bend working on an amazing piece which involves leather, denim... and some quilting that requires a bit of muscle!
Tyree wasn't the only man around on Wednesday. I didn't see Mr. McCloud actually use a needle and thread, but he provided the biggest dose of enthusiasm and laughter in the room. Those are pretty good things to have surrounding a quilt!
The Paper Quilt
These photos show the front and back of a paper quilt made as a gift by the Texas Silverado Quilt Group. Most of the seniors at Silverado have Alzheimer's but they had no trouble brainstorming words that have to do with quilts and quilting.
They debated as a group how to piece their "patches" of paper together. (A bit like a quilting bee!) I wish I had a video of the reaction of the Gee's Bend group as they read the words on the paper quilt. They seemed touched by some of the words like priceless and friendship. They chuckled at the word gossip...as if they weren't about to tell me what kind of gossip happened around their quilts!
A Quilt Square
It was almost lunch time at the center, so I quickly pulled out a few fabric squares and markers. Paige, the youngest of all decorated a square and seemed excited to know it would join other squares in making my new quilt. Eventually I'll have a new quilt connecting all the thoughts and drawings of so many who have gathered around my old quilt. As I packed my things away, Tyree gathered the group for a blessing. Then the quilters began to sway and hum and the small room filled with voices singing and giving thanks before their hot lunch was served.
There are so many things I want to know about this isolated community. Gee's Bend has an amazing history that began when the relatives of current residents were slaves on Joseph Gee's plantation in 1861. In the 1930's photojournalist, Arthur Rothstein brought a spotlight to this hidden Alabama community. In the 1960's Gee's Bend became involved in the civil rights movement when Martin Luther King spoke at the Baptist church to encourage voter registration.
But the questions that my Texas group had for the Alabama quilters were about the women who quilt now. They wanted to know who taught them and what they thought about when they quilted and what other things they do when they sit around quilting. They wrote out their questions on small cards and I presented them to Mary Ann. You could see Mary Ann pondering over the first question. Obviously these questions don't have one word answers, so Mary Ann suggested they keep them a while and write us back with the answers. I love that. Old fashioned quilting...old fashioned letter writing!
What I Learned
I've used my quilt as a tool to gather people together in lots of places, but this traveling quilt adventure was different than all the others. I shared my quilt just enough to explain about my Texas groups and to hand over their gifts. But this quilt adventure wasn't about my quilt...it was about theirs!
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.