Finding Routine, After Harvey
I returned to my senior groups 2 weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. I wasn't even sure if the Senior Center in Richmond was open, but I arrived with my quilt. When I entered the back door I could see the lobby was set up with donations for "disaster clients".
Hugs and Stories, First
The hugs lasted longer than usual. We had all been concerned, not knowing who might have been flooded and who might have been evacuated. It was a relief to see so many, back at the center.
Some were quieter than usual and others were bursting forth with stories. There were a few tears and lots of comforting words. It was hard to know what my job was. Many obviously needed to talk, but I could see some growing more anxious with the hurricane focus.
Distracted by the Lunchbox
As we talked, I began putting the "school themed" props on the table and the focus changed.
R. smiled to see the lunchbox and remembered his favorite school lunch.. which lead to a story of his godmother's homemade biscuits. M. said she didn't have a lunchbox in Honduras, but she had yummy hot lunches, thanks to Unicef. B. said she remembered bringing the same sandwich to school everyday. "I had homemade bread, with homemade butter and horseradish!" She laughed at how bad her breath must have been after lunch. "But it tasted so good!"
Suddenly no one was talking about Harvey, because the things on the table were distracting us. The spelling book prompted talk of favorite subjects. The bell reminded us of all the ways teachers used to get our attention... with whistles and bells and even rulers slamming down on desks.
Dancing in School
M. asked me to get the music going. She had been stressed with storm worries and wanted to get up and dance. I played a jazzy version of Chuck Berry's "School Days". A few of us left our chairs and jumped up to dance. Some clapped and sang along. Others just laughed at the rest of us.
In and Out
I was glad so many were able to make it to the center on Tuesday. For some it took 2 hours in the senior shuttle, with road closures. Some came late and others needed to leave early. It was good to be reassured that so many were fine, after all. But there were others we didn't see... which lead to more worrying.
Fewer Worries in the Afternoon
In the afternoon I returned to the center where my senior quilt groups first began... thanks to my mom being a resident. When I walked in the building, I was reminded of 8 years ago when Mom was a new resident, hunkering down with other staff and residents for Hurricane Ike... and I was out of town. I had fretted over my mom from afar, but found her relaxed and happy when I returned. I remembe feeling a little grateful for Mom's memory issues. And on Tuesday, it was refreshing to meet with my afternoon gang where we happily enjoyed some living in the moment... with no talk of Harvey.
Walking to School
A conversation started up about walking to school. V. talked about the mile long walk to and from school. "I had to walk home for lunch, too."
V. also talked about a boy who used to get teased when he walked to school. "He was poor and only had one set of clothes." That reminded me of a story that B. told in the morning. She shared about a little girl who appeared one day in her Michigan grade school. "She just arrived at school one day and we'd never seen her. She had no shoes." She told us how the little girl had moved from Mississippi after her home had flooded. "She had nothing."
It was a sad, but also a fitting way to tie our school theme into the flood and storm news we had all been worried over. It was odd how the recent happenings affected our usually carefree group, but we also felt a little more bonded because of it. Hopefully our next gatherings will be a little less complicated.
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.