We made it a simple "Thanks" theme for our Quilt gatherings in late November.
My first group at the Center had no problem coming up with plenty of reasons to be thankful. They shared verbally first, then went to work decorating "turkey feathers" with their words and art.
Laughter and Hugs
Their words of thanks were serious, but there was a lot of playfulness going on! I played an old recording of "Turkey in the Straw" and that got a few out of chairs. It looked like a barn dance!
Change in the Tone
We listened to some other recordings as we worked. The sound of Mary Chapin Carpenter singing, "Thanksgiving Song" and Johnny Cash's "Thanksgiving Prayer" sobered up the group. The softer music lead the group towards reminiscing about past holidays... which always reminds many of us about the special people we're missing. I had to be cautious and keep things positive.
Not Just Thinking of Past
As the feathers were added to some tables decorations, we turned the focus to the Center's big Thanksgiving Celebration that was coming up. A few gave us a preview of what they'll be singing at the big feast... Wonderful World.
Our chat moved away from thanks, when we began talking about cooking chores.
One dear friend had been up till 1 am the night before, cooking tamales and then cleaning the kitchen. She told me how weary she was, but her smile revealed a lot of pride.
Thanks in Spanish
A few turkey feathers were written in Spanish. I got some translation help and was touched by some of the thoughts. "...thankful for this very moment..."
I realize now, I should have made a feather myself, but at least I had request for a little help. One woman, who is new to our group, said she had never learned to write and asked if I would write down her words. She smiled as I printed, I Love My Kids.
Thanks and Giving
With all the talk of thanks, we also talked a little about giving. Giving happens to be something this group is very good at.
In the 90 minutes we were together, I witnessed plenty of hugs and compliments and smiles being given freely... not to mention Margie's handwritten gifts! Margie looks like she's giving away corn here, but actually she had already handed over a number of her tiny hand-decorated messages. (Margie always arrives with a supply)
I left the Center feeling pretty thankful for these dear friends. It made me eager about my afternoon group... a very different bunch!
Singing Up Some Thanks
In my afternoon group we made lists of things we were thankful for, then used them in a song. I laughed about the fact I only knew about 3 chords on the ukulele. I'm not sure they were thankful when I offered to play my new instrument!
Are these expressions a reaction to my musical abilities?
We did laugh a little at my lame uke playing. However, when we used their simple words in our song, it sounded pretty good. "...little bitty doggies, little bitty doggies, I'm thankful for that...lots of sunshine, lots of sunshine, I'm thankful for that..." In fact we were all feeling pretty giddy about our song creation and went out to sing it for a group that had gathered in the living area. We even got some applause!
One More Stop
My last group was small, but packed with just as much "Thanks" and good spirit as the others! I asked if anyone knew a song for Thanksgiving. Ken reminded us by singing a bit of an old song, that fit the theme! Thanks for the Memories!
A New York Tradition
Ken is my story man! I always leave with his stories and thoughts in my head. Ken was born in the Bronx 94 years ago, so he has memories of a Thanksgiving custom, popular with many children in New York City 100 years ago.
He remembers dressing up in "raggedy" clothes with other children and going door to door asking for food. Here's a HUFFPOST article that describes the amazing history of a tradition I was never aware of!
Even though I hadn't planned on doing much food or cooking talk (We did that theme 2 weeks earlier) I wasn't about to stop the discussions that evolved, about whether sweet potato pie was better than pumpkin pie!
And we ended our gathering with some of Dorothy's wonderful cooking memories. First she described how she learned to make biscuits from her mother who had "magic fingers". Dorothy explained that rolling dough and using a cookie cutter was the lazy way of making biscuits.
Then she described her own world of cooking as an adult. "I woke with my husband at 4:30 and made his breakfast before the kids got up for school. (There were 7 of them) After I made their breakfast and saw them off, I got myself to work where I was the head cook for the Head Start program."
Wow! I wanted to know if she made biscuits for the Head Start kids. She did. And she rolled the balls of dough, just like she did for her own kids!
No More Cooking
When Dorothy moved to be near family in recent years, she described her daughter's enthusiasm over having Dorothy cook a meal.
Dorothy is just about the warmest most giving person I know, but she shook her head firmly as she quoted herself, answering her daughter. "No. Mama ain't gonna cook anymore. From now on, she intends on someone else doing' the cookin'!" Everyone in the group cheered a bit for Dorothy. We agreed she should be allowed to put aside her cooking duties!
I drove home that evening with a huge hunger for sweet potato pie and tamales and everything else! I was starved. But most of all I left with a different kind of craving.
How I wish I could sit down to a table this Thanksgiving with all the incredible folks I've learned to love. Once gathered, we could feast on the foods from all their family recipes and tell more stories!
What Did I Learn?
We're pretty much thankful for the same things... food, family, shelter. They just come in different packages, with different spices, accents and styles. It's A Wonderful World!
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.