Older Than Any of Us!
I'm not sure how I became the keeper of so many old family Valentine cards, but I put them to good use around the quilt this week.
All of my senior groups seemed pretty impressed by these cards, from back in the day, when cupids and lace ruled. We were amused to read a couple "Guess Who" signatures and to discover some postmarks from 1910. All in all, we began to feel pretty good about our young selves. These cards, from as early as 1890, were all older than any of us!
Feeling good about ourselves...
That was my main goal for enjoying a Valentine focus with all my groups.
Valentine's Day can be a stressful holiday for anyone, not just seniors who are often missing loved ones. Even children can have a gloomy Valentine's Day, if they receive fewer cards than the other kids.
Harps and Arrows!
We talked about broken hearts and how many songs have been written by someone with a "broken heart". Then we took on a quick project of mending broken hearts.
So we kept it light with some pondering over the absurdity of those crazy cupids and their role in the holiday! I brought along the zither so we could create some of our own "harpish" cupid music! Betty got pretty good at plucking out the melody of Brahms' Lullaby, which we thought was an appropriate love song... for a baby!
Make a Valentine
Before we got into mending hearts, we had to make some. I had everyone grab a cardboard heart on the table. They weren't too easy to find on our cluttered table.
I tossed around markers and told everyone to make a Valentine for someone they didn't know.
Then I handed everyone half of a broken heart. They had to figure out which person at the table had the other piece that fit theirs.
There were some big whoops and hollers when connections were made. Once the halves were connected, there was an exchange of homemade cards, between the 2 who had completed their heart puzzle. Not much to it, but it was fun to see "friends" (some didn't know each other at all) sharing cards with each other!
Movie Star Couples
We talked about Romantic movies and Romantic couples. Which stars had the best chemistry? Which stars really fell in love? Then we got off on tangents of who was still alive and it got a little sad. One sweet friend in my Alzheimer's group couldn't get over the news that Clark Gable was no longer with us.
I had to lighten things up with prizes! We answered more silly trivia with
Conversation Hearts as prizes.
Just trying to read the messages was comical and trying to interpret them was more so. It was fun to see my "20-something" helpers trying to explain what "BFF" means... and "Sup?"
We remembered the days of making Valentines and all the mess with doilies and paste and pipe cleaners and construction paper.
I kept it simple and handed out pipe cleaners for a little heart making. Claire was quick to fashion her shimmery pipe cleaner into a heart. And then I noticed she had also taken the foil that wrapped her candy kiss and created a heart shape with that!
The fact that Mr. D has lost his ability to see did not stop him from participating.
He was able to create a double heart with his pipe cleaner. He was even able to match up his broken heart puzzle, all by touch!
But best of all, he could enjoy the music...
Before listening to some recordings, we tried to come up with a few songs with the word love. Then we played "Name that Tune" with songs sung by everyone from Perry Como to Elvis. I was amazed at how many could remember lyrics.
The Older the Song the Better
The very oldest songs were the favorites. When l played a barbershop quartet version of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" there wasn't a person in all 4 groups who didn't sing along, or at least sway. There was something comforting and safe about that old song. It seemed to make everyone smile.
When a few mentioned their own parents singing the song, I realized most weren't associating the song with their own sweethearts. What songs would touch them the most?
Music That Conjures Memories
The music from the forties and fifties seemed to have a different effect.
I remember giggling at the corniness of Frank Sinatra's, "Strangers in the Night" when I was a child, but I saw serious expressions around the table when the song was recognized. For many, this was a popular song when they were young and in love. That can be a good thing... but a sad thing as well.
A few winced when I jumped to "love songs" of the sixties. "She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" didn't seem to hold any sentimental value for these folks who were probably young parents at that time. They didn't find anything slow or romantic about "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" either!
Music for Dancing
Dancing played such a big part in the world of romance... back in the day. I was amazed at how many had specific memories of dances and balls and proms.
Not all dance was slow back in that time, but the memorable, romantic music was. There was one song that many remembered dancing to...
The Most Touching
"Some Enchanted Evening" seemed to be the song with the most sentimental impact. With my first group, I hesitated playing the piece since there was something so sweet and sad about the recording. But I also knew it could have a magical way of delighting these folks... who can be like giddy teens sometimes! With the piano intro, the group became so suddenly still that I worried. The voices that usually holler over each other began to softly recall the song... then describe wonderful images and places. "That was a song my husband and I used to dance to." "It makes me want to be sitting and watching a sunset with someone special!" "I'm thinking of a quiet restaurant, with dim lighting..."
My dear group that suffers with memory loss, is often the most affected by music. I hesitated again, but figured I could adjust the impact by how we talked with or through the recording. Again, the group became still as they listened. I could see a couple eyes close, as if absorbing or remembering.
Martha covered her face and I could hear her sigh. I held my breath, ready to break the sad spell, then Martha's hands came down and there was a big smile, although her eyes looked wistful. "That is so beautiful!" She started and the others chimed in. We listened and talked through the piece a while longer. Such a sweet moment.
What Did I Learn?
We all agreed that Valentine's Day can be tough especially for those without love and those who are missing loved ones.
But in all our groups we focused on how fortunate we were to have each other.
A lot of hugging happened around the Quilt this week!
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.