On the 22nd of July, puppeteer and theatre arts educator, Brenna Meagher, joined me on a New Brunswick adventure. We drove through a downpour that left us helpless to do anything but follow the taillights ahead. Unfortunately we had not compared itineraries with the guiding vehicle and drove far into unknown and unintended territory. When the rain stopped, so did we. Eventually we corrected our course and arrived to a warm welcome at Rexton, 9KM from the Elsipogtog First Nation (or L’sipuktuk) formerly called the Big Cove Band.
The next day our hostess, Bev Smith, led us to the Health Centre where we met with a great group of kids and remarkable staff. The children had been carefully chosen for this experience. Each has a personal health and/or developmental challenge and I can speak for both Brenna and myself when I say that we were humbled and moved to watch them persevere through the unfamiliar processes as they constructed and gave personalities to their foam puppets through the two days of work. We hoped never to forget the feeling in that last circle when the group reflected on the process and held their puppets. We shared relief, love, self-expression, and satisfaction with these 9 to 12 year old participants.
One moment near the end of our time in Elsipogtog stands out. It was in our last circle, within the beautiful circle marked on the floor, when the participants were taking turns telling what they liked about the workshop. One lad followed the example of the others who had said that they liked the puppet he or she had made. Then he turned and looked his fish puppet in the face, and said, “And Mr. Fish likes me!” We nearly wept to see the source of pleasure and affection this youngster had created for himself. That moment was worth every effort we put into the workshop. What an experience!