It's been over 2 years, since the pandemic halted my volunteering with kids at the Women's Shelter. It felt odd and wonderful to be back.
It was like starting all over, when I attempted to make arrangements to volunteer. Phone numbers had changed. Staff had changed. Rules had changed. So I just arrived, with some diapers and baby food donations. I had my quilt and puppet, in case I had an opportunity to volunteer.
All fell into place and before long I was gathering with a sweet bunch of young kiddos on the quilt.
After some icebreaker songs and games, we did a little problem solving to get Pickles out of his sleeping bag. The kids giggled at the snoring they heard in the bag. Then they took turns singing "wake up", into the lumpy bag. Such sweet voices.
Face Mask And Puppets
During 2 years of pandemic, I've wondered about volunteering with a mask. We're all aware of how masks inhibit communication. Muffled voices and hidden expressions are so unhelpful.
Then again, a mask could give me a little advantage when using Pickles the puppet!
Off With Her Mask
Actually the mask came off, when I found out it wasn't required. Pickles was awake and ready to meet the kids. Each child introduced himself to Pickles. The short conversations were sweet. Even though the puppet was on my arm, the kids stayed focused on the puppet.
Pickles asked ages and commented on cool shirts or colorful sneakers. Finally, the little boy, who had been the most rambunctious, had his turn. He stared Pickle's in his plastic eyes. "Can I tell you a secret?" Pickles said sure and I stretched the puppet towards the young boy. He cupped his hands and whispered quietly.
I started to move on, then the little guy lit up. "Pickles! Can you tell my secret to everyone?" GULP. I hadn't heard the secret. Now I didn't know what the boy and Pickles knew. I stalled by having Pickles whisper in my ear. Then I spoke for the shy puppet, "Pickles said he's a good secret keeper. He can't tell."
The little boy cheered Pickles on to tell the secret. It seemed clear to me that he wasn't testing my puppetry skills. I can recognize that. He was upbeat with his giddy insistence, or I would have been more worried about handling this correctly. The idea of keeping secrets can have a different meaning at a rescue shelter.
So I quickly decided Pickles should just be silly. "Are you sure I can tell?" Pickles asked. The puppet paused, then announced. "The secret is, the moon is really made of purple cheese!" The kids all giggled, but the boy encouraged Pickles again, to tell the group. Pickles spoke, "It's going to rain cats and dogs today!"
The kids laughed, but the boy was playfully annoyed. "Okay, Pickles, I'll tell you again."
This time I leaned in along with Pickles, so the puppet could share the secret with confidence. The little boy had wanted the kids to know that he was in 5th grade! Whew. That simple and silly secret was basically a tall tale, from a 5-year-old. It wasn't anything bigger than that. We all quickly moved on to bigger and better things.
What did I learn?
Listen carefully in the future! After all these years, you wouldn't think I'd be stumped by something so simple.
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.