A Theme for Everyone
I like themes that everyone can relate to. Everyone had something to say about summer.
Young and Old
It made it extra special that some of the seniors brought grandchildren and some of the staff brought kids as well. I was curious if the kids would relate to the nostalgia of simple summers, since that's what I assumed we would discuss.
Rainy Day Games
We talked about rainy summer days and the games we remembered playing. The young girls knew nothing about jacks, but had heard of Monopoly. None of us were good at Tiddledy Winks and all agreed it was a dull game. There were stories of board games that went on forever and memories of card games and playing with marbles.
We talked about the typical "girl" activities from way back when. We tried to remember some of the silly jump rope jingles and the rules of hopscotch.
Of course it was a man in our group who guessed "skate key" when feeling the mystery bag. Many remembered carrying a skate key to tighten skates when they came loose. We chuckled about skinned knees from skating accidents on sidewalks, buckled from tree roots.
Summer baseball may have been typically a boy thing, but we had quite a few women with baseball memories. Many of us recalled neighborhood games where kids organized, played and even fussed and fought without coaches and parents intervening.
I told the story of my sister getting hit with a bat during one of those all kid games. I shared a photo of her bandaged head.
Many remembered playing in hoses and swimming in rivers. We talked about bathing suits and how they've changed over time. There was a big discussion in one group about bare feet. The city kids were never allowed, but some of us who grew up with a little more grass remembered playing most of the day without shoes.
Sounds and Smells of Summer
Besides the delicious food smells at barbeques and picnics, we came up with earthier smells of fresh cut grass and honeysuckle. We imagined the daytime sounds of kids playing outside and noisy lawn mowers...or the swish of a push mower. Lara remembered liking her chore cutting the lawn with a push mower as as a young girl. "It was always kind of peaceful and I liked concentrating on getting the rows just right." Nighttime sounds were fun. We imagined lying in bed with open windows and hearing crickets and trains and dogs barking at night.
Refreshing Summer Drinks
We got thirsty thinking about lemonade and iced tea and even watermelon juice. Some from the south said iced tea was year round, but Ken from New York claimed it was just for summer.
Best Spot to Relax
Margie and Dorothy both had fond memories of porch swings and sitting outside when the air was cool in the evening. We laughed about comfy Adirondack chairs that are impossible to climb out of. We thought of gliders and swings at the park... which lead to a discussion of favorite playground equipment and hot metal slides in the summer.
Lara shared a book with some of our younger ones. She used to help kids with summer reading lists when she worked as a librarian. I was intrigued with her story of growing up in a small town with no library. "When I eventually visited a library for the first time, I just fell in love with it. I knew right then that I wanted become a librarian."
We talked about our favorite kind of reading in the summer. We tried to think of books with summer themes like Huck Finn. We talked about favorite places to read. Lara said under a shady tree. Mary said on the beach. Marla said she remembered reading books in a tree!
The Word Summer
We brainstormed the word summer. We came up with words that rhymed with summer and we listed books, movies and songs and plays, with summer in the title. When I asked my last group for a summer song, there was a long pause and then Ken began to sing softly. "Summertime and the feeling is easy." We played a recording with Louie Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald and many ended up singing along.
Whether we came from the country or city, it still seems like most of us remembered playing outdoors, a lot. Most remembered "playing hard" and getting a little dirty. Many also remembered a time or two of being bored.
7 year old Apple had an interesting image in her head when we talked about "Lazy Days of Summer." We offered ideas of what that meant and Apple said she imagined lying in the grass and looking up at the clouds.
"And then after a while, somebody would probably come tell me to get up and go do something!" She added with a grin.
What did I learn?
I learned that kids really can relate to an old fashioned summer. It was a sweet surprise when Apple shared her idea of cloud watching. I expected the adults would have fun remembering what summers once were.
But it never occurred to me that young kids could even know what it's like to spend time doing simple things or even nothing. Apple and the other 3 young girls enlightened me. Of course I do need to remind myself that the 4 girls were spending a very different kind of summer day than most of their peers. Those young kids gave me a lot to smile about!
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.