Seems anyone my age or older should remember road trips.
Road Trip seemed like a pretty good theme, since my husband and I had just returned from a week exploring Route 66 in Oklahoma. I had plenty of maps and stories and goofy games to share.
But not everyone has car memories.
I thought about that before I met with my Seniors at the Community Center. Many in the group grew up in Mexico and Central America, where their families didn't own cars. A few admitted they didn't know how to read maps. But we still had fun.
Maps and Cameras
We "over-used" highlighters on maps and turned them into art. Then we each imagined a place we'd like to visit on a road trip. We passed the tiny tourist camera and took turns describing the picture we would take when we got there. Ramona wished she could go to Hawaii. She claimed she'd never been and couldn't describe it. But then she smiled and and began imagining palm trees, and sand... and hula girls! Aurora, who noticed a picture of the Arch on a St. Louis map, was delighted to recall a trip she took to St. Louis, once. She was so excited to describe her trip up in the arch that she forgot I didn't speak Spanish. We both laughed and pantomimed looking down at St. Louis through the tiny Arch windows.
On to Silverado
Many in my sweet group at Silverado were full of traveling stories. Ernest grew up in Switzerland, so he didn't know about Route 66. But when I played Nat King Cole singing Get Your Kicks on Route 66, he clapped in time and pointed out all the instruments he heard.
Traveling with Kids
Some recalled traveling as adults with their own children, back before air conditioning and seatbelts, when the only entertainment was am radio and the license plate game. We created a list of kid car quotes. Are we there yet? I'm hungry? I need to go to the bathroom...now! Stop leaning on me! Betty mentioned the positive side to traveling with children. "They help us see and experience the world through their eyes!" What a treat to witness a child seeing a mountain or the ocean for the first time...or even a motel swimming pool!
We had fun remembering the old motor courts and motel chains of the past...with tiny wrapped soaps and stationary in the drawer.
Remembering Childhood Travel
It was harder for our group to remember childhood travels, but we did go off on some wonderful tangents about parents and siblings. I wish my mother had been able to tell the story of her trip from St. Louis to California on Route 66 in 1934. She used to tell us how she caused quite a scene when she told the inspector at the state line that they had fruit in the car. My favorite story was when she spotted Shirley Temple while shopping in a shoe store in Hollywood!
"Blowing Down This Old Dusty Road..."
With my recent road trip fresh in mind, I quizzed the group about a man born in Oklahoma who experienced the hardship of the Dust Bowl. He hitchhiked west on Route 66 with his guitar and harmonica and wrote songs about what he saw and experienced. His 100th birthday was last week. I played a crackly version of one of his road inspired songs and the group smiled and swayed and sang some of the repeated chorus. "Does anyone know his name?" I asked. No one could remember.
"Woody Guthrie," I said.
My mother's eyes lit up and she let out a light gasp. Her eyes seemed so clear. Her expression seemed like Mom, more than 20 years ago. Did she really for a moment visualize an old album cover leaning up against our hi-fi? Probably nothing so concrete. Even when I tell family stories, my mother no longer remembers with me. Her expressions d0 sometimes reveal a connection, though. And when I said the name Woody Guthrie, my mother's eyes seemed to warm as if she'd just been lifted to a wonderful place. I so wish she could have shared what that thought or picture was!
Our themes each week are meant to trigger memories. But sometimes a song or a prop or just a word can trigger a positive moment or feeling rather than a memory. That is just as important!
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.