Chairs Around the Quilt... and On the Quilt
This week, chairs were scooted and wheelchairs were rolled... right up to the Quilt-covered table for my first ever, Chair Theme!
My Chair Prep
For a long time I've been collecting photos of chairs. Recently I've asked friends, family and even a stranger (when I was buying a chair) to tell me their chair stories. I have learned if you give someone a moment (maybe while relaxing in a chair) they will come up with a good chair memory.
My Chair Memory?
I have many, but this wicker rocker could tell more stories than I ever could!
I have memories of this rocker and my 100 year old great grandmother. Later the chair moved with my family to Iowa and became a favorite for cartoon watching. Since Iowa, the rocker has lived in 5 more states and it's been covered in 4 different colors of paint and fabric since my ownership. My own kids were rocked in it and I'm sure future grandchildren will be.
More Rocker Stories
I didn't waste time with my stories, though. I heard about rocking chairs from storytellers who were younger than 10 and way over 90. My little rocker collection spurred on lots of discussion about the design of a rocker and what you can do while you're rocking... and what are the dangers of rocking chairs... and who uses rocking chairs more, young mothers or the elderly? And what's the best place for a rocker?
I guess my theme of chairs was almost too broad. We could have talked 2 hours about rockers!
I had my own fun before packing up my collection of 27 small chairs. When sitting around the quilt later, I showed the photo of my proud stacking accomplishment. They didn't think it was nearly as awesome as the picture of the circus performer, balancing on a jumbled stack of chairs.
Our Own Skills
I purchased a plastic chair-stacking game on eBay. Some took on the balancing task with enthusiasm, while some seemed confused. Dot questioned me in her Louisiana drawl, "Why are we doing this?" My answer of "For fun" seemed sufficient.
For a few, fiddling with the plastic chairs was yet another way to spur on a memory. Donna said, "I remember when my teacher asked us to help stack the chairs in the classroom!" A few started stacking the tiny chairs in a proper "one up, one down" fashion. Personalities shine through, when playing with tiny chairs!
Chairs for Relaxing
The most enthused discussion revolved around the chairs that help us relax. We debated over the best outside chairs from Adirondack to folding lawn chairs. "And when we're sitting in those heavenly chairs, what do we look at and what do we do?"
Robert picked up the Adirondack chair and told us he remembered sitting in a chair just like it. "I sat in it and read the bible." I liked picturing Robert lounging in a chair and reading, since most of his stories are about hard work on the farm or in the service.
Chairs With a Purpose
We had a great time comparing the chairs we enjoy while being pampered, to the chairs we dread, because they bring us pain. I meant the dental chair! I had not planned on discussing electric chairs... although my buddy Ken did bring it up. We all cringed.
Chairs in Books
The book of "397 Chairs" seemed to entertain Ramona and Wilma for quite some time. But we had a hard time coming up with a book or movie involving chairs. We decided "The 3 Little Bears" was the only book that seemed to have a spotlight on chairs.
Chairs in Music
We had some fun remembering the game of Musical Chairs, but it was harder coming up with songs about chairs. I found only a few recordings, mostly country songs with rocking chairs... some too sad to play.
I did find a duet with Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden singing, "Old Rockin' Chair's Got Me". When I asked my last group if they knew of any chair songs, Robert worked to remember the lyrics of the old Armstrong song. When I played the recording, it was fun to watch the whole gang begin to sway with the slow and bluesy duet. It made it seem as though we had all just gotten seated in rocking chairs, that rocked side to side...rather than forward and back!
Here's a Youtube video of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh9mereIx1o
Manners and Discipline
We brainstormed chair rules. "Don't tip back in your chair." "Sit still!" "Don't stand on that chair!"
I asked how many remembered chairs being used for punishment?" None of us ever remembered the luxury of a rocking chair in the corner. The portrait of me posing in a chair, nearly looks like a child being punished... or at least a Time Out Chair. But I don't think "time out" had been invented yet.
My mother had her own chair discipline. When my sister and I bickered, she put us in 2 chairs that faced each other. We weren't allowed to argue anymore, but we were encouraged to make faces. We knew Mom expected us to end up laughing, so we tried our best to not let her plan work. Our teamwork against Mom's psychology usually lasted a short while. And then the torture of suppressing giggles ended!
Pass the Rocker
I ended each group by passing a small rocking chair around the table. Each had a turn to describe a chair they remembered or a chair they would love to have.
Ken said they had a child-sized rocking chair in their home. "For a while, we used to loan the chair to a department store at Christmastime. They used it in their window display." That thought got the whole group thinking about rocking chairs near fireplaces, with a cup of hot chocolate! And Christmas music! Yummy food smells wafting from the kitchen!
Mother's and Rocking Chairs
Men in Rockers
I could picture the young father with his exaggerated expression as he hunted down the hall for the missing boy. "He would act surprised when he found him, and bring him back to his chair." She said this happened over and over and every time the young son returned to his father's lap, his smile got bigger. He had fooled his daddy.
"Who Has Been Camping Before?"
That was the first question I had for each group. The fact that less than a fourth of each group answered "yes" could have made for some dull sharing. But as usual, everyone seemed to have something to say. Tent stories lead to National Park talk. Park talk lead to cabins and lodges. And everyone had something to say about fires and bugs!
A Fine Centerpiece
My crazy display bowl of marshmallows and sticks gave us something to laugh at, right off. Many who had never camped, remembered toasting marshmallows.
"But we never camped in tents or got to make fires! I wish I could do some real camping, now!" 87 year old Elaine, smiled at the young woman's complaint and suggested they both go camping. It was fun to listen to this enthusiastic pair, planning their imaginary camp-out!
Building Our Own
I tossed out some sticks and quite a few built tiny teepee and log cabin structures that probably would have caught fire easily. Claire and Juanita laughed as they cheated and reached for some Lincoln Logs to add to their structure.
Besides Sleeping and Eating...
Then I held another with my legs..." He laughed as he described losing a grip on the bucket held by his legs and how his face went down and he barely made it across. Robert's river story reminded him of more river stories, one that involved spotting Bonnie and Clyde as he headed in for lunch after a morning of picking cotton. I was pretty delighted to look up details on the internet, that made his story sound pretty accurate... even if it had nothing to do with camping!
Camping and Music
We imagined the kind of music you might sing around a campfire. Guitars and harmonicas came to mind. Dot proudly recalled her husband's harmonica skills. I was surprised to learn the others at the table had all heard him play. There was a hint of sad to Dot's proud smile, which made me assume he has passed away. But she seemed mighty delighted to hear the others rave about his talent.
The Good Old Portable Ukulele!
Margaret did a little strumming on the uke as she yodeled for us. Ken did as much laughing as he did singing, while he played. And then we put the uke down and listened. I was surprised to see so many faces laugh and remember, when I played a recording of the funny, "homesick song" from the 1960's, "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah... Here I am in Camp Granada..."
Books Spark Memories
Jeannette was surprised to see the Ford Treasury Outdoors book. She said it was her son's favorite book as a young boy. "For a while, he wouldn't read anything else." Claire was amused by some of the fancy Airstream trailer images. We talked about the word "glamping" and how some add so much glamour and pampering to their experience, it can hardly be called camping.
Things to Touch
responds with incredible enthusiasm when I give him things that he can explore with his hands. He loved the soft flannel of the doll's sleeping bag and the perfectly proportioned, miniature canoe. The props reminded Bruce of a number of camp related stories from his rich family history going back to the mid 1800's. But Bruce never was a fan of camping himself. "I did enough of that in the service."
Trailer, Tent or Cabin?
Out of all my groups, not a soul had pulled a travel trailer. But everyone seemed to recall Lucille Ball's movie, "The Long, Long Trailer". We did have enough folks with cabin and tent experiences to debate which was better. Mary said. "At least you know what's in your tent! There are too many nooks and crannies for bugs to hide, in a cabin!"
Best and Worst?
BUGS! That topped the list when we discussed the worst part of camping. I had to laugh because that was indeed the biggest problem during my recent camping experience. Torrential rains were a bit of a problem too, but the mosquitoes that followed were even more aggravating. What luck that my sister had a folding screen house!
What Did I Learn?
Rainy in Texas!
On May 18th, I decided to embrace our wet spring with a theme of Rain and Wind. I lugged in some weather related props to share with the Quilt groups and got ready to enjoy rain memories. The very idea seemed to make the rain disappear for a couple days. Not a drop fell during any of my Quilt groups.
Creating Rain Sounds
But we made our own rain sounds with a "rain stick" and the "rainforest drum". A few made the sounds of a light rain with their finger tips on the drum. Others went for the sounds of rolling thunder, pounding with palms. Marie reminded us that drums were used in many cultures to bring rain during droughts. We thought about doing a rain dance, but decided we didn't really need more rain.
an umbrella... like shielding from sun or wind, or catching rainwater or using an umbrella as a cane. Ramona thought a pointy umbrella was great tool for protection. "You can use it like a sword or baseball bat, if anyone bothers you!"
There were a few memories shared about umbrellas, but the sweetest came from Adele. "I used to open my bedroom window when it was raining and I'd put my pillow on the windowsill. I'd prop up my umbrella over the sill and rest my head on the pillow, where I could listen to the sound of the rain."
Rain in Music and Movies
Just a few remembered the the Hepburn and Lancaster movie, "The Rainmaker". I played a recording of the musical version, where a conman called Starbuck claims he can make rain with magic words and a hickory stick... for 100 dollars. It was fun to see the group lean in to hear the story/song that I remembered loving as a child. We chuckled at the singer's bold voice, vowing his rain would cause the rivers to overflow... and make the dying cattle would rise up, again!
I brought along a pink cloud pillow that I made years ago for a game with kids. I had no idea it would end up being so useful.
The first group I met with had the energy of a grade school classroom on a stormy day. It was sunny outside, but they had an electric enthusiasm that was delightful, but noisy! Everyone had a story to tell and there were too many voices talking at once. I had to grab the cloud. "Put it over your head, Adele!" I laughed. "Everyone will know it's your turn to talk." We knew it was childish and silly, but it gave each their own turn to speak.
We didn't just talk rain, we talked about wind. We listed all the ways we can tell it's windy, from trees and windmills blowing, to hair and skirts... to laundry on a line. I asked what wind is good for and Margie lit up! She threw back her head as if recalling an image of her brother with his kite, stuck in a tree. I wish I had a film of her expressive hands and face as she recalled every detail of the kite rescue story!
Wind in the Room
We made our own wind when we blew on a tiny pinwheel. Margaret had the best technique as she rotated the tiny stick to the proper angle. Then we used a paper fan and took turns stirring up the air in the room. That wasn't so exciting till I blew bubbles into the room and everyone tried to perfect their fanning technique to keep the bubbles from coming down. Mostly we did a lot of laughing.
Oddly enough the thought of floods never came up with any my groups. However, images of floods have been on my mind ever since.
I finished with my last group 2 weeks ago and raced home to pack the car before heading off the next morning on a camping trip. I've spent these past 2 weeks in the midst of camping and traveling in Texas with my sister and our spouses. We've dodged floods and tornados and followed the devastating news concerning communities and families in our area. We have been lucky, but others have not. How odd to picture my groups 2 weeks ago, singing and joking and teasing about rain!
What Did I Learn?
There's a drama to weather that makes for an intriguing theme. You can't control it and maybe that's why we're all a little in awe of it. Weather stirs up the air, but it also stirs up emotions... good and bad.
And What Else Did I Learn?
A rainbow is such a positive image and symbol. It seemed fitting to end my last group with this photo (which I took the evening before Hurricane Rita was due to hit Houston 10 years ago) And it seemed fitting to play Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Of course I took a risk with that emotional song and I did end up with dear Martha sniffling. The song made her think of her late husband. But we laughed together at the thought of Dick laughing down at us with all our silly umbrella games and songs.
So I also learned that rainbows, as whimsical as they seem, have the power to brighten or darken our moods. Weather is serious business and I'm glad we didn't know what was coming our way 2 weeks ago. It's sunny today as I write on June 1, but it's also the first day of Hurricane Season!
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.