From 2 to 101
I took a Thanksgiving theme to four places this week. We talked about favorite foods, family traditions and the obvious... what we're thankful for. What a wonderful mixture of thoughts and voices, still lingering in my head. Children as young as 2, up to my oldest adult at 101, all shared a little Thanksgiving enthusiasm!
How thankful are kids?
My senior groups were amused by these paper turkey feathers that clearly demonstrate how young kids have a hard time understanding thanks. Some of the words my kids dictated or wrote years ago were more about wishes than thanks. "I'm thankful for Santa to bring me a kitty." I was amused later when I gathered with the kids at the Women's Shelter and discovered their thoughts of thanks were similar to my kids' ideas 20 years ago. "I'm thankful that I was a Ninja for Halloween."
Around the Table
With all the groups, we had fun imagining the perfect Thanksgiving table with all the smells and colors and flavors. After that we came up with a list of the kinds of things families and friends can share around the table besides food. In one of my senior groups, Vivian reminded us that we can share grace and Betty talked about sharing stories. In another group Lucille thought about all the recipes that are shared. One of the children at the shelter made me chuckle when he thought up the idea of sharing jokes!
A New Project for Sharing
I asked each group to help me with a project that would help connect all the kids and folks who gather around the quilt each week. I asked everyone to decorate a couple squares of fabric so we could stitch them all together and make a new quilt.
Creating the Squares
Each group approached the project differently. The children did lots of negotiating over material. Two boys wanted the cloth with a train print and each had a pretty good argument why they should get it. I was relieved that Roberto's little sister distracted him into picking another fabric.
I encouraged the kids to write something special that would be shared on the future quilt. "Something you're thankful for or something that makes you happy or makes you laugh." After a few "I love Christmas" and "I love Food!" cloths, I was able to talk the kids into thinking a little harder. Roberto admitted the thing that made him happy was making his baby sister smile. That made me smile!
Thoughts in One Word
My Community Center group was the most enthused about decorating their cloth squares. For some who speak only a little English, one word was enough to convey a message. We had everything from "Peace" to "Cherry Pies".
Music and Stories
Norman Rockwell's painting helped spur a few memories with the seniors. As we worked on the fabric squares, we played a little music and some even sang along with a recording of Louis Armstrong singing, "What a Wonderful World". We decided that was the perfect Thanksgiving song.
It was fun to see what ideas this group came up with. Betty chose a "Gone with the Wind" printed fabric and wrote, "Love makes the world go 'round". Lucille worked quietly for a long time and then I realized she had written a long story (in tiny cursive) about a a very mean rooster she remembered from childhood. A fun memory to share on the quilt.
To get our brainstorming started at Silverado, I told about a song my family sings every year at Thanksgiving. Our tradition started as sort of a joke and now we've mastered a pretty tricky way of harmonizing. Betty shared about her grandmother's cozy kitchen and Rita remembered some delicious foods. After talking a while we got down to sharing some thoughts on the cloth squares. Even 5-year old Andrea helped. My mom wasn't able to personalize her own, but she was able to pick her material. I had to smile because she chose the same print the boys had fought over. My mom always loved trains!
Piecing it all together!
Eventually these squares will come together and I'll be able to gather my groups around a new quilt. This is what I hope will happen. Each group will gather around the quilt and point out the messages and drawings on all the squares. The words and pictures on the quilt will remind us of other things. We'll go off on all sorts of tangents and share a few stories. Our tangents might lead to a song or a joke or even a debate. Hopefully we'll end up sharing a little laughter, too.
What I learned: Sitting around the quilt each week is kind of like coming together at Thanksgiving! We usually don't share food, but we share about everything else. I might have to decorate my own quilt square and write, "I'm thankful I get to gather around and share with my quilt peeps every 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.