We talked about how downright creepy masks can be. I shared an odd assortment of flat masks that cover just the top half of the face.
These old molded masks are pretty spooky, too. Some of us remembered how ridiculously hot these things were to wear! We debated about the Indian mask and how appropriate it would be to wear that today. I wasn't surprised that quite a few could see no harm, where others had concerns about the painted face and the mean image.
Costumes, Then and Now
A Princess or Two!
What Could You Be?
We tried to be inspired by picking up just a pair of gloves or a scarf or glasses. How can one thing transform you into another character?
And we remembered when kids' costumes were simple and homemade. You didn't buy a sword or a broom to add to your costume. You made it from cardboard or searched the closets till you found something to use.
I was so curious with some of the older folks, or the quilt group members who didn't grow up in the States. I wasn't sure how many even had memories of going door to door in costumes. My most surprising answer was from Ken, who was a young boy growing up in the Bronx in the 1930's. No, he didn't remember going door to door on Halloween. "But I remember dressing up in poor looking clothing and knocking on doors asking if they had food." Since I know Ken wasn't really poor I asked. "Did you feel a little guilty about that, Ken?"
Eerie Melodica Sounds
I slipped back into my childish self and crept around the group, adding a dramatic jolt of organ sound to "scare" my friends. They were all good at humoring me and played along. I came closer to a new gentleman in a wheelchair who had been moaning and thrashing uncomfortably. His wife had been enjoying our theme, but I wasn't sure if I might cause more agitation. This is when I realize my lack of training. The dear man wasn't looking at me, but I sensed his mouth turning upward as I got closer. I decided to risk it and gave him a "jolt" of my silliness! His reaction was sublet, but sweet. I could see the distraction had been pleasant for him. His wife smiled as he became calmer.
What Did I Learn?
With concerns of health and safety, there are fewer kids enjoying the old-fashioned fun of going door to door for candy. If I'm lucky enough to meet great grandchildren someday, I wonder if they'll question me with envy. "Did you really knock on doors and open your bag for candy when you were little?"
A New State for the Quilt
In October, I was in Iowa for the first time since childhood. We planned on visiting the small town of Grinnell, where I went to Kindergarten. It would have been pretty surreal to have been able to take my quilt and do a program in my very own old classroom... but we were scheduled to visit on the weekend. However I was able to visit another small town school in northeast Iowa a few days later.
Miss K's Kids
I communicated by email with Miss K, weeks before. She arranged for me to visit her classroom after the kids had lunch. From our brief exchanges, I could already tell she was the kind of teacher I admire. When I arrived that day, the kids were in the midst of some energetic, music and movement activity. She greeted me with the same positive enthusiasm she had with her kids!
Miss K. put name tags on the kids and we jumped into some songs and games around the quilt. It's amazing how helpful name tags can be. Kids respond more quickly when I use their names. But I quickly noticed I was needing a lot of help with pronunciation. Coming from Houston, I'm pretty good with Hispanic names and there were quite a few in this class. But I was also dealing with a name or two from Somalia and there were some accents I didn't recognize.
We did an activity with stiff, squares of fabric. There was nothing tricky or even all that creative about it. It just gave them each a turn and gave me a chance to observe all the different kinds of kids, with so many different approaches. One was very shy, but was encouraged by another child. Another was eager and spoke with such enthusiasm, but I could barely understand him. This had turned out to be very different bunch of kids from what I expected. I was in rural Iowa after all.
Varied, Like the Quilt
The residents in town were as colorful and different as the squares on the new quilt I started almost 2 years ago. Since I began "volunteering on the road", I've gathered around the quilt with kids and adults from all over. The new friends I've met in west Texas towns, New Mexico, California, North Carolina, Alabama, Missouri, Mexico and Chile have helped decorate squares to add to a new quilt. The squares bring the thoughts and drawings and flavors of o many, together. Who would have guessed I would have seen as much diversity in one tiny Iowa town as I've seen on my travels!.
What Did I Learn?
The Quilt's Home
St. Louis is pretty much home, since I moved there when I was 18. St. Louis is home to the Quilt Idea, too. While living in St. Louis In the 1980's, I started teaching "Magic Quilt" classes for kids. When my husband and I decided to make St. Louis one of our fall road trip stops, I was eager to take the Quilt back home!
My Old College Buddy!
Karen's energy and confidence masked the fact that she was still somewhat new to her job. She didn't act like someone who was still learning names and routines. She certainly was beyond "winging it", but was nice to team up once again and "improvise" with Karen. Improvising was something Karen and I did a lot of, years ago!
This and That
Karen and I found a cozy spot and settled in with a small group. Suddenly I was enjoying this relaxed, informal gathering. I shared a little about quilts... some stories, some props. But it was different than past groups, where I've "presented" a program, or felt like a teacher. It just felt like a group of women gathering around a quilt years ago.
Working with Hands
Then I told them about how I first heard Karen's voice nearly 40 years ago. "We were in Theatre Conservatory together!" I even laughed and told them about some of our crazy performances!
Around Another Quilt
The two returned and spread out the other quilt to share. After we admired the new quilt, the focus changed! Suddenly everyone wanted to know about Karen's work with the Bob Kuban Band. They wanted to know when she would be performing for them! And then they were back to more questions about her time with the band. Look what I started! But it was fun having these women, sharing in this fun reunion between 2 old college friends.
For the New Quilt
Before ending, we brainstormed some words that came to mind when we thought about quilts. Comfort, memories, sleep and dreams... Karen and I jotted their words onto fabric squares that will be added to the quilt I'm building from connecting with friends in new places. One of the women suggested we call our new group, "Gathering of the Eagles". I liked the bold title. I'll always think of these women when I look at the patches on the quilt!
What Did I Learn?
Who Doesn't Like A Tree?
When I asked my group at the center who could think of a song about a tree, the group looked at me blankly. Then Robert, who is always hidden under his WWII Vet hat spoke softly. He isn't one for singing solo in a group, but when he started up, just speaking the words, "...like a tree planted near the water, I shall not be moved..." the group began to recognize the old African American spiritual. It was a touching moment to see this group singing and swaying together, even those like me, who only vaguely recognized the song.
Click below to hear Mississippi John Hurt sing, I Shall Not Be Moved. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beg0bM_x3D8
Underneath a Tree
Another, less serious member of our group, grinned and lifted her eyebrows dramatically. "I'll never tell!"
We thought about kids today and wondered how many have never climbed a tree. Some kids might not have a tree to climb, but most just don't have the time to climb.
Making a Tree
There were no discussions of family roots with my group at the Center, but there was plenty of sharing. We got off on a project making "leaf tags" to decorate a bare tree branch. I just threw out paper, pens and yarn and they jabbered away as they worked. I laughed to watch this group, as comfortable as siblings at a dinner table, sharing pens and fighting over the scissors and laughing over stories.
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.