Saturday, April 11 was the bittersweet final day of our project at St. PJ’s. It was another early one, with transport from our hotel to the site at 7am. We began the day with our usual full-deployment check-in, followed by morning Level 1 training for St. PJ’s staff who had not yet taken part in the improvisation exercises and board game creation that the FIT/SV/UofM folks had been providing throughout the week.
Around 10am, we clowns excused ourselves from the training to rehearse, rework and spruce up our show for its second and final performance—this one for the children and teens in St. PJ’s domestic program. After a couple of hours of sitting, we were relieved to get outside, wiggle around, leap, laugh and gag about, as clowns are apt to do.
While we rehearsed, I was overcome by a feeling of gratitude for the diversity of affinities, interests, opportunities and skill sets that keep human societies ticking. We couldn’t do without professional direct care staff and administrators who keep a place like St. PJ’s running and support and care for the children’s variety of basic and developmental needs. And we couldn’t do without the professional artists, merrymakers, and fools who help remind us of why it’s good to be alive and of the tremendous potential we all have to imagine, dream of and enact a better world—a malleable future to which, as Mary says, “we are all immigrants.”
After the morning’s workshops and the clowns’ rehearsal wrapped, we were able to partake of a very special treat—Jewel’s homemade chicken tinga! After teaching two hours of Zumba—besides her innumerable other responsibilities at St. PJ’s—and then coming out with the FIT/CWB/SV/UofM team for a rad dinner at The Cove, AND spending time with her hubby and adorable baby girl, Jewel COOKED A DELICIOUS MEAL on Friday night for all of us to enjoy at lunchtime on Saturday. WHAT? Yes. This woman is a superhero.
The chicken tinga was an authentic Mexican recipe—corn tostadas with a shmear of refried beans, topped with some of the most flavorful chicken I’ve ever tasted, plus lettuce, plus Mexican-style crema. I tried to exercise self-control, aware that I’d be performing and flipping upside down for the kids in less than an hour. But I couldn’t stop myself from having three heaping portions. Delicioso!
Half way through digesting, it was time to set the stage and dress up for our show for the domestic kiddos. One of St. PJ’s truly amazing girls helped entertain the crowd and get them riled up for us while we waited for a few stragglers to join the audience. And then it was show time!
The laughter! The smiles!
During our post-performance talkback, these wonderfully bright kids explained to us how a number of the acts in the show worked. One brilliantly sharp boy recounted all of Olivia and Leah’s “Dead of Alive” act for us, and another insisted on demonstrating the “Copy Cat” foam star magic. The post-show discussion ended up being a bit of an impromptu magic workshop. It was awesome.
After the show, the CWB team facilitated one last workshop for the girls in the domestic program. We decided to repeat many of the same games that we’d played with the girls in our earlier workshop, creating an opportunity for the workshop participants to take over facilitating the now-familiar activities. It was SO exciting to see the girls take ownership of the games and share them with peers for whom the games were brand new. Gosh, what a treat. We also added some acrobatics into the workshop and had the girls trying out a few versions of thigh stands and handstands. I felt moved watching the participants build trust and teamwork.
At the end of the workshop, the girls surprised us by presenting us with a big “Thank You” card signed by everyone in the group, and delivered their heartfelt appreciation for our time together over the course of the week. I’m pretty sure that someone was also cutting onions in the vicinity, because suddenly everyone’s eyes were wet!
It was hard to say goodbye to the girls. I think that we must have said our goodbyes five times. And they seemed to keep echoing as we crossed the campus back to our home base in the Valero building to wrap up our reflections and clean up our space.
In her parting words to us, Jewel confirmed what we’d all felt: It had been a tremendously successful week, full of learning, growth, play, laughter, smiles, discoveries, creation, and community building for both the St. PJ’s staff and the children. Somebody somewhere was cutting onions again! Danged onion cutters followed us around all afternoon on Saturday…!
Before departing St. PJ’s for good, we took a big FIT/CWB/SV/UofM group photo, then packed up the cars and vans to head back to the hotel.
After freshening up some, the majority of the deployment team waited to have dinner at Mi Tierra before heading out for some get-down dancin’ time. Meanwhile, the lady clowns managed to miss dinner completely when their leisurely stroll down the river walk turned into a deep exploration of some of San Antonio’s most beautiful, old houses and conversation about love and weddings on eccentric, beautiful properties around the United States. Olivia fell in love with a fancy kitchen and its brass teapot. Marisol fell in love with a two-story, Victorian-style playhouse in a front yard. And Leah marveled at the sidewalks’ built-in steps that she could use to mount her horse. If she had a horse.
Then there was lots of walking to try and find the rest of the crew. Then a meet up with a friend of Olivia’s who plays in the band Cake, who were at the Maverick Music Festival in town on our last night.
Once we finally made it back to the hotel, it was only a couple of hours until Olivia and Leah were up to meet Desi for a ride to the airport. Marisol woke up then, too, to bid them all adieu. Derrick also showed up to say ciao!