Reading to the Residents
My first book to be published was Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog. Much of the content in that book came from the very place my mother is now.
The social director and I decided to try an experiment using my new book. This week we are having story hour from 10:30-11:30 every day until we finish the book. I wondered how many could stay awake for an hour. But, we thought it was worth a try.
The book I’m reading is Blue-Eyed Doll ,historical fiction covering 1926-1946. It’s written for young and young-at-heart readers, as most of my books are. At the end of the hour, different residents have spontaneously shared memories, based on the story. The first day we discovered that one of the ladies, who walks, reads books, sharp as can be, was seven years old in 1926. My mom was five. One had lived in San Francisco where the story is set; he was stationed there in the war.
Yesterday, after the hour, Larry spoke up. This was a huge surprise to me. I didn’t think Larry could talk. He does laps. Carries his book with him. Reads in the conference room, alone. Always looks nice in a starched, ironed dress shirt tucked into pressed khakis. Yes, he’s an anomaly in this place. But I’ve never heard him utter a word. Turns out, my husband has had conversations with him, about what he’s reading. I never knew that. But, when we finished reading, Larry says, “I had a doll once. It was a boy. My sister and my cousin had girl dolls like it. I beat the stuffing out of it. Stuffing came out everywhere. When my sister was out of school, her doll was still like brand new. Now there!” he says, shaking a finger at me, “There’s the difference between little boys and little girls. Don’t let anybody tell you there’s no difference.” I wondered if he was making a subtle comment on current gender news.
The chapters today took us through the Great Depression. One resident said he didn’t remember it, he was only two. But his parents talked about it his whole life. In my story, little Harry Bradley wore a hole in his sole. His mother drew around his foot on a stack of newspapers to line his shoe. The shoes needed to last until he outgrew them. The sharp oldster I referred to earlier, told us she remembered her own shoes lined with newspapers cut out by her mother.
One lady said her family made it through the depression without hunger because they had a big garden. The whole family worked at it, and her mother canned the food. Several mentioned different remembrances the story brought to mind for them, making this author very happy.
Oh, and let me tell you one more thing. On Monday, the wife of one of the residents (one of Buddy’s favorite guys) asked me if I’d like to have a Japanese Friendship Doll. She brought it in today and sat it on the piano with my doll display. I’m so thrilled. It is about 10” tall. She actually looks a lot like the Japanese Ambassador Dolls in my story, only smaller. She has silk kimono, and her features are similar. She is very, very old. And I’m honored to take care of her.
Tomorrow’s reading begins in 1937. More and more of the residents will begin sharing before we get to the end, I think. I’m having as much fun as the residents. And Buddy, of course, will be ready to go in the morning.