I had a bulky load when I gathered my supplies for the groups today. But it was easy. I just packed up my ridiculous collection of hats...
There wasn't a person in the morning or afternoon who didn't want to try on a couple hats. We wore hats. Read about hats. Sang about hats and discussed a little hat history.
This book about the "cap-stacking salesman" inspired a little hat stacking. Everyone placed a bet about how many hats I could balance. I cheated, using a lot of berets and flat hats and managed a stack of 24... before they tumbled all over the place!
I thought I could have guessed which hats different people would opt to wear. But I was so wrong. It seems like personalities changed with each hat change. If only I'd brought along mirrors.
A few got caught up in the books about hat fashion and history. We talked about the days of church hats and fedoras... hat pins and hat boxes. We talked about famous people, known for wearing hats, like John Wayne and Abe Lincoln.
As we spoke, I saw a secretive smile appear. Frances spoke softy. "My older brother always wore a hat." I could tell she was picturing her brother as her smile grew bigger. "He was so particular about it. It was a cowboy hat and he treated it with such care." Her expression made me have to ask. "Was he handsome?" Frances almost giggled, "Yes!"
I drove home that day, thinking of all my friends wearing hats in younger days. I could see Ramona in the cotton fields wearing the bonnet her father insisted the daughters wear... to shield from sun, but also to hide them from the boys. I pictured Betty in her church hat, with the little veil. And I pictured Frances, looking up to the handsome, hat-wearing brother that she adored!
I love hats.
Prompted by Facebook Post
But when I entered the Shelter's Play Care with my big bag, the kids were more interested in my bag than going outside. They helped unfold the quilt on the floor and begged to see what I'd brought. They took turns making my wooden man dance on the board. They called him Mr. Piccolo and cheered him on.
I lucked out with an incredibly sweet bunch of kids who didn't need to have their energy tamed outside. They loved it when I pulled out the silk scarves and cranked up the music. Usually I'm much more "teacher-like" with plans and rules, but these enthused kiddos needed little guidance. They were eager to perform for me, whipping and jumping and spinning with the scarves to fast music... floating and swirling with the slower sounds.
Before packing up to head out, we had one more bit of fun with the scarves. The kids put their feet together in the center of the quilt. They covered their feet first... well at least most feet got covered. Then I used extra scarves and cover the kids completely. They pretended they were all asleep until the music started and woke their feet, then their knees, then their hands... Suddenly they were all awake and on their feet, dancing with as many scarves as they could hold.
By the time I needed to pack up, my perfect little bunch made it easy. "Let's make a mountain." One little girl said. They piled one scarf on top of another. A different little girl twirled the blue and purple scarf into a ball and laid it on top. "Here's a cherry on the top!" She giggled. Then the group began folding the quilt, (with scarves inside) corner to corner, until they handed me a fat folded Triangle-Quilt.
Was it the magical weather that day? I have never had such a cooperative, happy bunch at the shelter.
What Did I Learn?
I've dealt with so many different kids at this shelter, for nearly 15 years. No matter how energetic or happy the kids seem, I'm always aware that there are worries behind all the smiles and playfulness. It was nice to learn today, that I can be with the children at the shelter and totally forget that their young lives may be complicated.
Today we played and the children were... just children!
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.