This piece is actually about the last quilt my class made.
Bloggers have asked me to ‘finish the story’.
Here is Part 2, with two more to follow.
Over the summer I will go back to the beginning,
how it all started with a trip to a museum, and meeting Milly.
It is perhaps my favorite series of posts,
and certainly one of the most important and memorable
parts of my teaching career.
It will be my next series of posts.
In Part 1, children embraced the song “This Land is Your Land” as their own. They sang the song every day, multiple times a day. By the time winter arrived, they had ‘taken over’, and constantly used the book This Land is Your Land when they sang. The book brings American landmarks and history to life, and it also depicts humanity, the good and the bad. Children love the ‘sad page’, and the ensuing verse that gives us all hope and reminds us of what we can do, together. In my classroom, the song just keeps on going.
It was a regular morning in the classroom. Children were finishing snack. The routine is they get a book and have silent reading (or not so silent) while other children finish their snack. Of course there are a few children who try to eat quickly so they can have first dibs on a book. This Land is Your Land is always the first to get picked. And, it’s hard to read the book and not sing, or at least hum. On this particular morning, multiply that tenfold.
I remarked to Naomi, my assistant teacher, “The last time children were so vested in a song and couldn’t get enough was eight years ago. I had to do something, do more. Milly the quilter made a quilt.”
Lightbulb moment: Of course, a quilt!
I told Naomi all about the quilting adventure with Milly eight years ago.
“But Jennie, Milly died. We don’t have a quilter.”
“I think we might. Remember Donna? Years ago when she came into the classroom to make pasta with the children I asked her if she would be willing to be a Milly, a grandparent figure, if and when Milly was unable to do so. She is wonderful. And, she’s a quilter.”
“Donna really is wonderful. I had no idea she was a quilter. Wow. That would be awesome.”
Naomi took the children to the hallway to get their coats and get ready to go outside. I was in the classroom, feeling like I had found buried treasure, or solved the mysteries of Stonehenge, or something like that. And then I was hit by a tidal wave of feeling, not by me – by Milly. For a moment she was there, and I knew she was giving me her approval. I could feel her smiling. It was time to move forward and pass the torch. And then she was gone. Just like that. Well… I just said under my breath, “Thank you, Milly.”
This just doesn’t happen to most people. But it did to me.
Naomi came back into the room. “Jennie, what happened? Are you okay?” I said, “Milly was here. She gave me her approval. She was happy.”
Next, I needed to call Donna. Her first words were, “When Milly died, I was waiting for you to call me. I thought you would ask me.” I told her everything. Donna knew Milly and always remarked about her quilts. Then Donna said, “I’ve never done anything like that before. I’m up for the challenge.”
Those were exactly the words Milly had said to me many years ago – was that an omen?
And so, we began a quilting journey. First, we gathered the children, and Donna, in a big meeting. To my surprise, Donna asked if ‘Gloria’ could come, too. Gloria was thrilled. So were the children. We sang the song while holding the book. Then came the big moment to introduce a quilt. I don’t tell children, I ask children, and I asked them if they would like to make a quilt about their favorite book. That was like asking them if they wanted to help Santa Claus deliver presents.
“Donna can sew the quilt. What should we have in the quilt?” Every child couldn’t wait. They had to shout out their ideas. They were so excited! Here is their list:
Gulf stream waters
Statue of Liberty
Ribbon of highway
The list is a wonderful collection of both the song and the book. The children were spot on!
Next, we made a giant sketch of all our ideas. Pen to paper. Ideas to paper. Heart to paper.
Stay tuned for Part 3.