Our “This Land is Your Land” quilt was the last quilt my class made.
Let’s start at the beginning.
How did quilting in my classroom even begin?
It was a divergent pathway.
Every good story has a great backstory. To know how Milly came into my life and tell you about her early years in my classroom, I have to back up and tell you what really happened. It’s a great story, and began what would become a legacy. Hang onto your hat!
“It happened like this…”
My husband and I were at a fall wedding in Philadelphia. We had an hour to spare, and went to the historic district to visit Carpenters Hall. After the tour, we had ten or fifteen minutes until all the museums closed. Directly across the street was the National Liberty Museum, so we headed over. Walking into the museum I was thunderstruck by a magnificent Peace Portal. I stood underneath, soaking in all the beauty. The museum was closing, and I hadn’t moved from under the Peace Portal.
“I can do this!” I told my husband. “I need to do this in my classroom. We can build this on top of the loft. It will be a place for children to go, to just be. Children need Peace.”
And so it came to pass. I contacted the National Liberty Museum to get permission to recreate their Peace Portal. They were thrilled. Little did I know that Peace would become an enormous part of the lives of children. They loved being on the loft- sitting, thinking, reading and playing under the Peace Portal we had made. Children felt the same way that I felt under the “real” Peace Portal.
I decided to talk to children and ask them how Peace makes them feel. Colin said, “Peace makes me feel hearty.” I said, “So Peace makes you feel strong. That’s terrific, Colin.” He looked at me in frustration, patted his heart, and said, “No Jennie, Heart-y.”
Their thoughts were so remarkable that we made a Peace Poetry Book in the spring. It is card catalogued at the public library. Our school year of Peace, from making a Peace Portal to writing a book of poetry was a very good year.
Little did I know, this was only the beginning. The stage had been set for Milly.
And little did I know that the museum would play a big role.
The following fall my husband and I went to the Bennington Museum in Vermont to see their Grandma Moses collection. We walked into the front entrance to see a display of Haitian Quilts. These were murals, as detailed and stunning as a painting. I was frozen. This must have been what the first people felt when they saw the ocean or the Grand Canyon.
“I know that look”, said my husband. “Do you really think you can make one of these at school?”
“No, but we can design one. Peace was a wonderful part of school last year, and the children wanted more. This is IT. We can make a Peace Quilt!”
We looked at each other and said in unison, “We need a quilter.”
Meeting Milly was not what I expected, and certainly meeting me was not what Milly expected at all…
Stay tuned for Part 2.