Letters... Mailboxes... Post Offices... Mailmen... Memories...
For a December theme, I decided to indirectly focus on the holidays, with a theme about MAIL. You have to be my age or older to appreciate that theme! I gathered my stuff and headed out to my senior groups.
As I drove to my morning group, listening to NPR, I had to laugh. The radio program was titled, Miracle on Your Street: How the Post Office Handles Holidays. By the time I met my group, I was full of lots of extra trivia!
I spread out my oddball stuff... a mailbox bank, here and a postman figure there. I told the group some curious facts.
200 million packages were handled, just this week alone... the first American post office was in a tavern... in the early days of parcel post, a few folks decided it was cheaper to send their children by mail, than train. So they did.
The idea of kids being handled like mail was a little creepy. I asked if anyone had heard of the book character, Flat Stanley.
No one had heard about the story of the flat child who had many adventures, including a trip through the mail. The story didn't creep my son out, when he was a child. He and his classmates made their own Flat Stanley cutouts and sent them in the mail, to have adventures with friends and relatives.
The thought of Flat Stanley only amused the group for a moment. They were more drawn to the stack of letters tied with a bow. We talked about why those letters were tied up with ribbon. "So no one can read them!" "Because they're special."
We talked about making letters special, with sealing wax or even a lipstick kiss! No one could believe that I had not opened these special letters that belonged to my mother. We debated. But I have chosen not to read them.
Where Letters Go
I doubt kids today would want to spend more than a minute looking at the old Golden Book, about the adventures of a letter traveling through the mail.
But my group around the table was delighted by the images on each page. It was a good reminder (to me, since I grumble a lot about mail service) about what an amazing thing it is, that we can write a note at home and have it end up in a friend's home, across the country... for 50 cents.
I may not have opened the letters tied with ribbon, but I loved sharing these family gems. There was a postcard my grandmother wrote in 1918. There was a letter from my great great uncle in 1889, typed on Ely & Walker stationary... reminding me of my family's odd connection with President Bush's family.
But my favorite letters have always been the ones that my grandfather sent to my mother when she was small. This one from 1932, starts with Dear Baby. I love his drawings. Oh how I wish I had met him!
Mom's Postcard Collection
My first Senior Quilt Gatherings, began when my mom was alive and she was able to join in the fun.
She is no longer here, but I pulled out her prized collections of oddball postcards. These are just a few of the old (and less humorous ones) in her collection of about 100.
Passing the Cards
In both of my groups, we had the most fun when we just sat back and passed the silly postcards around the table. We laughed and gabbed and showed each other our favorites... that squeaked, or told the temperature, or had crazy, moveable features...
I kind of like the kitschy one, with a baggy of Spanish moss attached.
Of course the best part is always hearing the stories. Many remembered their mail carriers fondly. They were always postmen, back in the day and they usually came to the door and were known by name.
Two remembered having no postal service. They had to make trips to the post office to get their mail. I kept my own mail service grumbles to myself.
Music and Cards
Before finishing up, we listened to a little Christmas music, while passing around vintage holiday cards.
Who doesn't like to look at some cozy pictures of snow, when it's 80 degrees in Houston? We sang a couple Hanukkah songs, too... even though we were a little late for this year's celebration.
What I Learned: I didn't overdo with a December theme this year. Mostly I was too disorganized to get holiday props pulled out. But our simple theme seemed just about right to me. I felt more relaxed and focussed and I think the others did too. Best of all, I did a lot of thinking about my mom. It felt like she was right there with us!
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.