The Legacy of Milly, Part 5

In Part 4 the Peace Quilt became part of the permanent collection at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and Milly became an important part of my classroom.  Children adored her.  She loved singing, and Milly’s favorite song was our favorite song, too – “God Bless America.”

Part 5

“Jennie, can we sing again?  Can we sing “God Bless America?”  This was what I heard from children, every day.  I sing many songs with children, all kinds of songs.  So, why was this particular song the favorite?  I don’t know.  But, what I do know is to pay attention to children and what they gravitate towards.  My lesson plans might be terrific, but I know intuitively that what children are drawn to is far more important.  I paid attention.  And it grew.  When children were in the playground they started singing on their own for other children.  They sang all the time for Milly.  She joined in, and she loved it!

I had to do more, because the children wanted, needed, more.  Veterans Day arrived and we invited soldiers into the classroom to say Thank You, and of course to sing.

Lizzie’s favorite book was an everyday staple.

Milly spent time at school making a red, white, and blue outfit for Gloria- at the request of children.

When the holidays were approaching, I had this pit in my stomach.  I just felt like I was giving hungry children little bits of food instead of a big meal.  So, I decided we would make a God Bless America book for families as a holiday gift.  This would be our own version, based on Lizzie’s favorite book.  What a treasure this book became!

We wrote all the words and made our own illustrations.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this book would have a profound influence and effect later on.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

When the holidays were over and we were back to school, things really hadn’t changed.  Children built a ‘hill’ in the snow as their stage to sing.  They were often on the soccer bench at the far end of the playground.  I could hear their voices raised in song.  Everybody could.

Jennie, the children are trying to tell you they want more.  Pay attention.  Do something!  I called Milly.

“Milly, do you think you could make another quilt with the children?”  That was like asking a child if they wanted candy.

“Yes, of course!  What do you have in mind?”

“A God Bless America quilt.”

“I was hoping you would say that.”

And so, we began another quilting adventure.  We already knew what we wanted to have on the quilt, as we had memorized the song – singing it a zillion times will do that.  We had also made our book that illustrated all those words.  But, we needed to put everything into one picture for the quilt.

Again, children made all the decisions as to what would go where.  Milly was there to watch.  They colored the big sketch, which reinforced the words to the song, and reinforced what they wanted.  It was their ‘statement’ and they were proud.

Look at Milly’s big smile!  Children couldn’t get enough of picking fabrics and watching everything come to life.  Look carefully at the quilt:

I didn’t notice it at first.  Do you see the large white center?  That’s the United States of America.  In New York, there is the child’s Statue of Liberty.  There’s “night” and the “light from above”, “mountains” and “prairies” and “ocean”, and of course “home sweet home”.  I wish you could see this in the flesh.

The newspaper wanted to do an article, and the Post Office wanted us to hang the quilt for ‘the world’ to see.

Milly was now quite well known!

“Jennie, where will the quilt go?”  People were starting to ask.  The Postmaster wanted to know.  Our school’s director wanted to know.  Milly hadn’t asked me…yet.  And then it came to me.  The quilt was museum-worthy, much like the Peace Quilt.  But, I wrestled with what museum would be best and most appropriate.  My first thought was the song, “God Bless America”, and I researched Irving Berlin and museums where much of his memorabilia is located.

An interesting fact about the song: Irving Berlin thought “The Star-Spangled Banner” was too difficult.  He was not a big fan of the song, especially as our National Anthem.  That prompted him to write “God Bless America.”

The museums, while wonderful, felt limited in the sense that our quilt was about far more than Irving Berlin.  It was more about patriotism.  Patriotism.  I had hit the nail on the head in defining the quilt and where it needed to be.

My husband immediately said, “Jennie, the most patriotic museum is in New York City.  It’s a restored aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid.”  Why did I not know this?!  I researched the museum (perfect fit) and immediately contacted the director, the ‘top dog’.  To my surprise she got back to me right away.  Boy, was she excited!  So, we were off – again – with families and children in tow.  Milly’s family made the trip, too.  The event was far more than I expected… and it took a major turn.  Stay tuned for Part 6.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five 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 was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in American flag, art, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Family, geography, history, Imagination, Inspiration, military, museums, patriotism, quilting, Singing, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

68 Responses to The Legacy of Milly, Part 5

  1. Darlene says:

    I love this quilt too. What a story this is!!

  2. beetleypete says:

    Looking forward to part 6! But this part was great too.
    By enlarging the photo, I was able to see all the lovely detail, including The Statue of Liberty. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad you could see the detail, Pete. I don’t know how Milly did it! Many thanks, and yes, I believe you will enjoy the Intrepid Museum (and more) in part 6. Best to you.

  3. Mischenko says:

    This is such a beautiful story and quilt! The kids all look so involved. Just wonderful, Jennie! ❤

  4. I love how you listen to your natural instinct to feel what the children want even though they can’t quite articulate it. The border on that quilt is a lot of precision work itself. Would scare the stuffings out of me. I love Gloria’s new vest! How fun. Your kids in the aqua room are so very blessed to have you reaching beyond the norm on their behalf. Looking forward to the next chapter.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marlene. Children often have a hard time articulating their thoughts. I remember Milly telling me about the border. I wish I could recall what she said, but I know that it was difficult, and something very different. She was quite proud and excited. I’m so glad you are enjoying these stories. More ahead!

  5. srbottch says:

    So many people touched by these two projects, Jennie. Wonderful!

  6. Oh I so loved reading this Jennie,, I will have to back track now to catch up with the first parts, but what a beautiful quilt Just a beautiful creation and such craft work gone into it.. ❤

  7. Ha ha ha. I love this. So now you’re all off to New York City! What a great project and experience for the kids and everyone involved. You’re amazing, Jennie. And of course, Milly is the star. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Diana. More twists and turns ahead. It’s hard to believe all of this really happened. I have to pinch myself. 😀

      • It’s been an awesome series so far. I’m looking forward to the next installment. It would make a fabulous children’s book, you know…..

      • Jennie says:

        I’m so glad you’re enjoying this, Diana. Thank you. And, you’re not the first person to tell me it might / would make a good children’s book. It’s quite an adventure. 🙂

  8. Firstly: “I was hoping you would say that.’ Sometimes all we need to do is ask, right?
    Secondly: My Dad served on the USS Intrepid during WWII in its very early missions…
    Thirdly: Quilts and the USS Intrepid – more incentive to tour that ship!
    PS – love Gloria’s vest!

    • Jennie says:

      Wow! Your Dad was stationed on The Intrepid!! It is worth the visit as a museum. The aircraft on the deck alone is amazing. Down below, I remember all the brass. Quilts and the Intrepid… you will definitely need to read Part 6 to see what happens. And yes, sometimes all we need to do is ask. 🙂 Thank you so much, Laura.

  9. Fantastic of course Jennie and pressed for later this afternoon.. such a wonderful story of the children and the lovely Milly.. hugsx

  10. robbiecheadle says:

    It is wonderful that Millie and your (and the children’s) quilts are hanging in museums all over America.

  11. Dan Antion says:

    I love the Intrepid Museum. I’ve been there at least half-a-dozen times, both before and after the renovations! This story is so interesting, with its twists and turns. I’m loving it.

    • Jennie says:

      The museum is remarkable, Dan. I love it, too. Besides all the aircraft on deck, I remember so much brass below deck. More twists and turns ahead. I’m so glad you’re loving the stories. Thank you!

  12. Pingback: The Legacy of Milly, Part 5 | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Sally! I tried to say thank you for your kind words and for sharing this next episode, but your site didn’t accept it. Could be the thunderstorms here.

  13. Jennie, this post gave me goosebumps! I loved every word and photo. Hugs on the wing. ❤

  14. Ritu says:

    This is fabulous 💜

  15. lbeth1950 says:

    Milly and her quilts are amazing.

  16. delphini510 says:

    Jennie, what a wonderful class you all are. Under Millie’s and your help and guidance
    you bring out the creativity in the children. It is a beautiful piece of work and a good
    quilt isn’t easy to make.
    How wonderful that it will be given such an honorouble home.


  17. As I’ve said this is a super story. Well done. Jennie.

  18. I love this quit and this chapter of the story! Looking forward to reading what happens next!

  19. dgkaye says:

    Jennie, what a beautiful and fascinating story. And I’m sure Milly was thrilled to be in the thick of it with her talent. And a timely post for God Bless America. So glad the children are learning patriotism. ❤

  20. Opher says:

    Sond has such strength

  21. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, I have never known a teacher like you … your energy, passion and commitment to teaching, to the children, is inspiring beyond belief. The joy of all you give is seen on the faces of the children, their keenness to give of their time and imagination. The quilt is exquisite and I am so in awe of you for finding a perfect home for it! A great recommendation by your husband and I look forward to reading the next part!

    • Jennie says:

      Annika, that is so nice! Your words are truly kind, dear, and greatly appreciated. Thank you!! As to the perfect home, the quilt will take even more trusts and turns. 🙂

  22. Sarah says:

    How lovely! I think I haven’t seen this quilt before and it is just as wonderful as the peace quilt! Milly’s smile said it all. 😄

  23. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing! What a nice quilt and great art. Have a good weekend. Michael

  24. Norah says:

    What a beautiful quilt, Jennie. I would love to see it in the flesh. Thank you for describing it for me.

  25. The quilt came out extremely beautiful with so many layers of feeling stitched within. Thanks for sharing its journey!

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