It's been a few years since I used a train theme around the quilt.
I've collected a few new things to share, so I gathered my stuff and headed off on Tuesday.
The first group was in good form. They browsed through books and magazines and examined a few toy trains on the table.
The "Ann Arbor" boxcar was a recent Ebay find. It was a hit. We remembered all the places we'd seen model trains... surrounding Christmas trees... shop windows.
A few remembered playing with trains and a couple remembered riding on them. Ramona could remember the outfit she wore as a child... and she wasn't happy about that dress!
Sounds of Trains
I played a recording of a passing train and everyone got quiet, listening and absorbing. For some who happen to live near tracks, it was a common sound.
I left my morning group thinking about train sounds... whistles, clanging, hissing, screeching...
Stopped by a Train
I drove a mile before I suddenly found myself stopped by a train.
I couldn't have been happier. I was envious of the car in front, with the perfect view. I watched the train head over the Brazos River and thought about a story from another year. Mr. Robert once told me he'd crossed a rail bridge going to school, when a train suddenly approached. He was forced to jump, but landed safely on the muddy, cushioned river bank.
A Train Sugar Land
I had a quick lunch at home and headed the opposite direction for my afternoon group in Sugar Land.
Once again, I had tracks to cross and I got stopped. Again, I was more than happy to wait and watch... and listen. The rhythm of the cars rolling down the tracks was like music.
My dear friends were all seated around the table when I arrived. Their Alzheimer's keeps most from recognizing me, but they could clearly recognize the objects scattered on the table. Most could identify the railroad spike and it led to a discussion of train track adventures with penny smashing and "tightrope walking".
Donna picked up the boxcar with "Ann Arbor" written on the side. I was impressed when she told me she had once lived in Ann Arbor, as a U of M student. I was even more impressed when I asked if she remembered "The Gandy Dancer Restaurant" in the old Ann Arbor train station. She didn't, but she knew that the term gandy dancer was associated with railroad workers.
Sounds of the Train
At one point I pulled out my wooden train whistle and gave it a nice long, puffing blast. Luckily our visiting dog did not howl, but his mother had a strong reaction. She smiled big and used some music terminology (that I can't recall) to describe the sound.
When I blew through each hole separately, the pup's mama again used her expertise to comment on the harmonizing notes. And when I played a recording of Woody's Guthrie's "Do Re Mi" with his train-mimicking harmonica, she began join in with rhythmic sounds from her mouth. Turns out Ms. W once played with the Houston Symphony.
Kids and Trains
Some of the toys and books made us think about kids and trains. We all agreed that kids have always seemed fascinated by them. Are they still today?
We hoped that kids would continue to wonder about those giant, noisy things. I told them I had been stopped by a train just an hour earlier. We agreed that we kind of like it that people are forced to wait on trains now and then. Kids probably don't mind.
Folding the Quilt
We finished up and a few began to help fold the quilt. Some were meticulous, as if they had folded a million quilts. One set of hands reached from a wheelchair and folded as best she could from her spot. Another set of hands fumbled to fold... as if she'd forgotten how.
Our folding task, was a reminder of how differently Alzheimer's affects the folks who gather around the quilt. Sometimes you would never know my afternoon group is in an Alzheimer's facility. Our discussions are so full of detail and I have no concerns about what stories are accurate or real. It all feels real to us.
What I Learned: I love sitting around the quilt and being in the moment, enjoying the people just as they are. In both groups, I only know them by their own stories and the personalities I see. Their relatives and old friends may know them better, but I know them as they are, at our table. I like that. But now and then, I love it when I am given hints of who they were long before I knew them... a biology major, a band director, a nurse and a house keeper. It's good to be reminded.
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.