The Legacy of Milly, Part 4

In Part 3, Milly brought in beautiful fabrics and placed them on the sketch of the Peace Quilt spread out across a big table.  Children came to her like moths to a candle, picking out just the right fabrics.  At last the quilt was completed, and it was a work of art.  We wrote a poetry book and the quilt was big news in town.  I told ‘the world’, including the director of the National Liberty Museum.

Part 4

“Jennie, thank you for telling us about the quilt.  I’m sure it is as stunning as your Peace Peace Portal” said the museum director.”  That was so nice!  She then continued.

“I want to tell you that the museum would like the Peace Quilt.  We want it as part of our permanent display.”

I was shocked.  And here, I’d just wanted them to know all that had transpired since I saw their Peace Portal.  I was thrilled.  Then it sank in- a quilt from my classroom was going to be displayed – permanently – in a national museum. I couldn’t wait to tell Milly!

We talked, laughed, and enjoyed the moment.  Milly was pleased as punch and just as taken aback as I was.

“Milly, you have done so much for us.  You made this quilt.  How can I ever thank you?”

Milly didn’t bat an eye.  “Take me to Philadelphia” she said, with gusto.

Road Trip!

Children and families were eager to go and be part of presenting their work to a national museum.  A good sized group made the trip to Philadelphia.  The director had one request. “Please bring Gloria, too.  After all, the quilt was her idea.”  Yes, Gloria made the trip with us.

My husband and I picked up Milly at the crack of dawn.  As the car went whispering along the highway in the early morning hours we chatted away.  Milly leaned forward from the back seat, putting her arms and elbows up on the back  of the front seat.  She said, “I’m the other woman”, with a low voice and body language that meant she wanted to really talk about herself.  What an icebreaker!  She told us she’d long been separated and has a dear soulmate, another man.  She told us that her daughter had died a few years ago from cancer, and how she’d spent every moment by her bedside, quilting.  Her daughter had two young girls, and Milly was pretty much raising those girls, along with their dad.  Milly talked about the quilting shop she had for years, and I learned about quilting clubs.  She reminisced about life in the 1940’s. We laughed, we cried.

It was the most delightful six-hour drive.  We became good friends.

The quilt presentation was exciting and humbling.  We were treated like kings and queens.  Milly was all smiles.  Gloria never left Grant’s side.  In the Part 3 photo, he and Gloria were checking out the quilt progress together.

The museum made a plaque to place underneath the quilt that reads:

“Peace Quilt” designed by students at the Groton Community School, Groton, Massachusetts.  Their teacher, Ms. Jennie Fitzkee, conceived this project after visiting the National Liberty Museum two years ago.  She saw many visions of peace displayed throughout the Museum, which made her wonder how her young students would interpret this concept.  With the help of a beloved classroom puppet named “Gloria”, Ms. Fitzkee inspired the youngsters to draw their ideas of “Peace.”  Quilter Milly Cunningham used their illustrations of rainbows, happy animals and even trucks to create this beautiful quilt.  The National Liberty Museum is grateful to Ms. Fitzkee and her students for this wonderful gift.

And so, we reveled in all the glory on our car ride home.  We shared stories and wrote thank you notes over the next few weeks.  We were truly humbled.  The rest of the school year Milly continued to come in to visit and play with the children.  Her bond was a strong one.  Children loved her.  They wanted to be with her and play.  I stood back and watched magic happen – every time she visited.

I sing all the time with children, often playing the autoharp.  It’s a staple in my classroom.  On one of Milly’s visits Gloria wanted to sing.  We learned that Milly loves to sing!  She joined us in a chorus of songs.  Did you know that Milly’s favorite song is “God Bless America?”  I did not.  Well, the children were thrilled, as that is one of their favorite songs, too.

The school year ended, and the following year Milly was a frequent visitor.  Something different happened that year.  A group of children loved singing “God Bless America” and often begged for the song.  “Jennie, can you play it on your autoharp so we can sing?”  I did, yet I always played and sang many other songs as well.  This was becoming big, and I respond to big when it comes from children.  That means I had to do something, do more.  I did!  And it turned into a pathway I’d never expected.  Thank goodness Milly was there… stay tuned for Part 5.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in art, Early Education, Imagination, Inspiration, museums, Peace, quilting, The Arts, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to The Legacy of Milly, Part 4

  1. beetleypete says:

    What a great story, and the personal details divulged by Milly were just fascinating.
    This is ‘misty-eyed’ reading of the highest order, Jennie.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Ritu says:

    How awesome!!!

  3. lbeth1950 says:

    What a thing for children to experience!

  4. Léa says:

    Life without art and imagination, is not living… Great post!

  5. Darlene says:

    This story just gets better and better.

  6. Opher says:

    Fantastic story Jennie. I’m not surprised they wanted it. It is beautiful and so meaningful. Millie the Marvel!!

  7. Wonderful of course Jennie and pressed to reblog later this afternoon… hugs xxx

  8. Pingback: The Legacy of Milly, Part 4 | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  9. dgkaye says:

    Loving this heartwarming story Jennie! ❤

  10. What a super story, Jennie. You have me hook, line, and sinker. Can’t wait for part five.

  11. willedare says:

    What a meaningful and extraordinary saga you are sharing with us! I heard a radio program recently in which children who had taken part in a 25 mile peace/social justice march were interviewed about how this affected the trajectory of their lives. Many of them had grown up and found work in various social justice causes as adults. Who knows what seeds this project may have plants in the hearts and souls and minds of your students. I also love that you wrote thank you letters AND that you sing a lot in class!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much Will. Your comment was a pleasure to read. And yes, who knows? The seeds we plant don’t grow until later. I just want to plant lots of seeds! Singing is a good way to do that, as you know. Thanks for following along. You won’t believe what happens next!! 🙂

  12. frenchc1955 says:

    Thank you for this installment!

  13. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This is the latest installment of the legacy of millie story by Jennie!

  14. Dan Antion says:

    This was an unexpected and wonderful twist in the story, Jennie. It’s amazing how much love and passion was shared in making and giving that quilt to the museum. I’m looking forward to Part-5.

  15. The true story of Milly, Gloria, and these gifted children, that you have shared so touchingly and written beautifully; now has wings that touches everyone and opens hearts as it raises us up from the quagmire of the mundane to view something of great beauty, a Peace Quilt, created by the true artists of the world, children. Breathtaking.

  16. Dr. Perry says:

    hi Jennie, what a wonderful post! I was waiting for part 4. You write beautifully. You and Milly are such beautiful souls. I can’t wait for part 5. Thank you✨

  17. I forgot to mention that really passionate quilters who put so much of their heart into their work, buy quilt grade fabric and Jo Ann’s does not have that. They carry crafting grade fabric. A world of difference to the touch. That she sewed the entire thing by hand is also quite impressive. Not something I could do and it’s a dying art form. So, another tissue was required here. I laughed at Milly being the other woman and was warmed at seeing Grant carefully sharing his experiences with Gloria. One simple gesture touches so many so much. This is a story for a book. You know it too.

    • Jennie says:

      I should have known about quilt fabrics or at least something about quilting before I put my foot in my mouth. Ha! Now I completely understand. It is a world of difference. Milly often gave me her scraps of fabric to use for school projects. Gorgeous! If you look at her quilting up close, the lines of stitching are absolutely straight with each stitch perfectly even. Remarkable! I laughed my head off at the other woman comment, too. Then I knew Milly had a great sense of humor to match her big heart. And I had no idea that Grant would attach himself to Gloria at the museum. Always be on the
      lookout for the presence of wonder, as E.B. White said. You’re not the first to mention this story for a book. Hmm… Promise me you’ll let me know how you feel about that after you read all the episodes. This was just the first of her quilts with me! Lots more ahead! Thank you, Marlene. 😀

  18. Wow! I’ve just read parts 1-4 and I have joyful tears! What a wonderful experience and something you will all remember! I can’t wait for the next part!

  19. Sarah says:

    That must have been a wonderful moment when you learned about the museum’s plans to exhibit your beautiful Peace Quilt! How lovely that you took Milly to that road trip and that you and the kids could be there at the museum when it was first shown! 😄

  20. robbiecheadle says:

    How absolutely wonderful, Jennie. You are an exception teacher and Millie was an exceptional quilter. How marvelous that the museum was so interested and supportive.

  21. So many storylines…the saga of the peace quilt itself is interesting of course, but the threads of lives in different stages of life – especially bringing multidimensions to a generation that too often gets stuck in stereotypes Aw heck, I’ll just say it: Milly!!!!! “The other woman” hilarious, but serious, too, ya know? You have a gift for writing what is hard to express – the interconnectedness of life in multiple lives – joined together by a Peace Quilt.
    Too cool, lady!
    Can’t wait for the next episode.

  22. srbottch says:

    Wonderful and congratulations to all of you!

  23. So awesome that Milly got to make the road trip as well, and of course she had to go. The photos are adorable, and I love the way Gloria is commemorated on the plaque too. What a project and wonderful result. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Diana. It was wonderful! I’d nearly forgotten that Gloria was recognized on the plaque until I wrote this story. 🙂

  24. sjhigbee says:

    What an amazing story – thank you so much for sharing it:))

  25. I know I am reading your story backwards, but loving it just the same 🙂 to see how it began to unfold

  26. Norah says:

    What a wonderful blending of stories, of emotions, of joy, of peace, Jennie. You look very justifiably proud of the quilt, your children, Milly, Gloria, and you!

  27. Pingback: The Legacy of Milly, Part 4 | K. D. Dowdall

  28. jjspina says:

    Wonderful story, Jennie. Thank you so much for sharing. I am reading it in reverse but enjoying it from end back to beginning. Hugs xx

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