Where to Focus?
I stuck to basic holiday themes for my senior groups in December. Focussing on childhood traditions and wishes kept things simple. I have to remind myself that Christmas nostalgia can cast a moody spell if I'm not careful... so I brought lots of toys.
Toys Help Us Remember
Power of the Bear
Then when she reached for Teddy and smiled as she recalled her own, I couldn't have been more delighted.
she was happy to throw on a striped hat and pose with old bear. Even the hairdresser was getting in on some of the festive silliness.
Project for Kids
At the Community Center, my friends have such varied backgrounds and traditions. We talked less about what we received as children and more about the holiday gatherings and all the yummy foods. After talking about tamales and ambrosia, sweet potato pie and taffy making, we turned our focus to the kids at the nearby Women's Shelter.
Cards for the Kids
While Christmas music played, we sat around the table and used stamps and ink, colored pencil and ribbon to make small cards. Over the years, the folks at the center have made numerous gifts and goodies, that I've been able to deliver to the kids. It was fun to see how the tone of the room changed as this loud and chatty group began working away. Some were absorbed, choosing the right words or colors to decorate. Others talked quietly, wondering about the kids and hoping they would have a decent Christmas in their temporary home.
Oops. I should have been paying attention to the music and keeping it more upbeat. A little honest sharing is good, but I needed to keep the mood positive. I leaned in and shared, "I know what you mean, my mom died in December, too. I love Christmas music, but sometimes the music can make you sad." Then I reminded her what I did when I started feeling glum. "I try to do something for someone else." She caught on quickly and asked, "Like making these cards?" "Of course!" We switched to Holly Jolly Christmas and Ms. R. got back to work and then she reminded me that we needed a group picture.
Everyone grabbed a hat or a toy or book and posed, "Merry Christmas!"
Picking our Favorites
After everyone had a chance to talk about their favorite toys or stories as children we were reminded of the gifts that cost no money.
We remembered the gifts we made as children and the homemade gifts we've received over the years. We brainstormed gifts that cost nothing. SNOW! We all decided that the surprise of a WHITE CHRISTMAS would be the best gift! At least for those of us living in Texas.
So snow became the theme for the second week. Again the thought was simple, but wonderful stories were shared about sledding and ice skating, snowmen and even the chore of shoveling!
We obviously had no real snow to play with, but we created some of our own oddball games with a snowball head ornament. He was just right for tossing and we created a very silly game passing him with candy canes.
The Theme Goes to the Shelter
After spending a couple weeks hearing stories about Christmas from 65 to 90 years ago, it was fun to get a different perspective! The kids at the Women's Shelter were from age 2 to about 11. They were wound up with holiday energy the day I arrived. It was a balmy day, so I took them outside to run and play... and wear them out, first.
Then we gathered on the quilt for games and stories, but they were still giddy and hyper. After a while, I pulled out the crayons and paper and we headed for the table. I watched their little bodies relax as they went to work creating snowmen and Christmas trees. No glitter, no pipe cleaners, just paper and crayons. Like I'd done with my first Senior Group, I played music softly and then enjoyed chatting with them as they drew.
Card Gifts from the Seniors
Before the kids headed off to dinner, I laid the cards in the middle of the quilt and let them take turns picking one. These children who couldn't sit still before, were suddenly staring into their cards. And then came the questions. "Who made mine?" "What do the words say?" I had worried that the kids might not care about these simple cards with candy canes attached. But they surprised me with their appreciation. They were curious that these "grandparents" who made gifts for them. "They don't even know us!"
A Surprise For Pickles
What Did I Learn?
It was another Re-Learn for me. Simple is Better. We all know it, but I just need a reminder now and then.
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.