Christmas in the Past
For the past couple of weeks all my senior groups have been sharing memories of past holidays. As always I have to be cautious about too much nostalgia. Holidays can be hard for some. I made sure to keep us laughing as well as remembering.
We all shared about family traditions. I brought in my Christmas Crab and told the group about the ugly crab that hung from my family's tree years ago. When anyone in my family of 6 (including parents) got the least bit cranky, anyone had permission to swipe the lovely necklace from the tree and place it around the neck of the ornery one. The crab was to be worn as long as needed.
We of course had to have a lot of music! We swayed and remembered most of the words to White Christmas and at one point we made such a racket with singing and bell shaking that someone came and closed our door. We laughed over all extra verses to Noel that we didn't know. Then, Dorothy came to the rescue with her book of hymns that happened to be in her lap and encouraged us to keep going!
Kids and Holidays
We tried to remember what we liked best (besides presents) about Christmas when we were kids. Many recalled favorite foods, from Christmas taffy to tamales! Some remembered the tree going up on Christmas Eve and many remembered the fun and extra noise of visiting relatives. Almost all of us had memories of tinsel and how impatient we were as children putting it on the tree in sloppy clumps. Betty remembered her mother removing the tinsel each year and packing it away to use again. We spent a long time pondering the fact that tinsel was originally made of lead. I remember that heavy lead tinsel on my grandmother's tree!
In some groups we had hot chocolate while we shared about our favorite family traditions. We tried to remember a special present we once received. Mary remembered a Shirley Temple doll that she still has. Bob, who did not grow up in Texas remembered a Radio Flyer sled! Some remembered oranges in stockings and no one remembered getting coal!
Many remembered making gifts, especially as children. These wonderful cards made by my husband a million years ago, still come out every December. Many remembered making paper chains and stringing popcorn...and usually getting bored with the task before the chain or string got very long!
This week we talked about gifts and tried to think about what kinds of gifts you can give that cost nothing. Betty said, "A pie!" Ken remembered making his daughter a small puppet theatre out of a cardboard box for Christmas. It never took long in any group for someone to say "Love" or "Time". It was heartwarming to hear them talking about people they had reached out to in the past.
Making and Giving
We talked about how our attitudes have changed over the years, when it comes to gifts. The joy of giving something that is appreciated is pretty hard to beat. So in all groups we set about making cards and tags to attach to candy canes for the kids at the Women's Shelter. While music played, the conversations flowed. It was touching to see how so many of these folks ended up cooperating, since skills are limited with some. In my very last group, Margaret held a loop of sparkly yarn with a dangling tag and announced. "This is the first time I've tied a knot since my stroke!"
These Incredible Folks
I feel unbelievably lucky to gather and share with these dear friends! Not only did we get to indulge in ridiculously fun reminiscing about the past, but we got to enjoy the moment with singing and laughter. And better yet, we were allowed to ponder the future a little as we wondered what the kids would say when they got their surprises. Everyone begged me to let them know what the kids said when they got their candy cane cards.
What I Learned
I gathered up the cards and tags made by the groups and prepared to visit the kids at the Shelter. I wondered briefly if homemade cards and candy canes could possibly thrill children in 2013. But I didn't bother with that thought for more than a second. I focused on what I'd seen earlier. The image of those dear hands carefully snipping and gluing and tying... reminded me that the project wasn't for the kids, it was for them.
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.