Sometimes when I go to The Mansion to teach an art class, I expect to see the people who lived there when I first started volunteering.
I think about sitting on the couch next to Alice and just holding her hand. Or watching Madeline draw the still life I set up while she tells stories about her childhood in the Bronx.
The change from one group of people to another should have been gradual, more natural. But the pandemic prevented that. By the time Jon and I were able to go back into The Mansion many of the people we used to know were no longer there for one reason or another.
Things are just getting back to the way they were before the pandemic for me at The Mansion. The people who live there no longer wear masks so it’s easier to get to know them because I can see their faces.
But staff and visitors still wear masks which makes it harder to communicate especially with people who have even slight hearing loss.
There are some people who come to my classes that I knew before covid shut down The Mansion. And I’m getting to know the newer people better.
I have an idea of who likes the feel of clay on their hand and who doesn’t. I know that Claudia will always be there, eager and willing to do her best. And Peg really focuses on the work, even if she takes it lightly.
I know that Lori is slow and deliberate in her work and Jane will claim she’s not an artist but shows up anyway and always makes something lovely.
Sharon, who is a poet, loves to accessorize and decorate whatever she makes.
I suppose I still have a bit of a “covid mind”. So when Ruth wants a hug, I hesitate. My comfort level isn’t what it used to be.
I don’t think I realized how much all of this had an effect on me and my work at The Mansion. Honestly, it’s just in writing this piece that I’m acknowledging these feeling for the first time.
Maybe it’s because it does seem like things are getting back to normal that I am able to let my guard down. Able to allow myself to feel what I’m feeling.
It’s a relief because knowing this I can now go back to The Mansion and make a fresh start. Not exactly starting over, but maybe getting that old feeling back again that I really do belong there.