In Part 1, I discovered a Peace Portal at a museum and recreated it in my classroom. Peace became a big deal and very real to children. When I saw quilts that were murals, I knew I had to make a Peace Quilt with children. The only problem was finding a quilter. At last I met Milly. It was an unexpected meeting.
“Milly is the best quilter, not just in town but everywhere.” said the director of the Senior Center.
“Great! When can I stop by and meet her?”
“She’ll be here on Wednesday with her quilting group.”
Wednesday couldn’t come fast enough for me. As soon as school was over, I was there. I walked over to Milly and introduced myself. She smiled (sort of) and I bounced around, telling her all about the Haitian quilts I had seen at the Bennington Museum. I was so excited! I showed her photos of the quilts, spewing story after story of each one and their art. I noticed that the other quilters were looking down at their work, sewing like mad, as if making eye contact with me would bring a plague upon the group.
The more I talked, the faster they sewed, and the lower their heads dropped. All six of them. Hmm… Milly hadn’t said a word. Not One Word. It occurred to me that perhaps I was behaving like a child who had been let loose in an amusement park. But, this was such a terrific idea. And those quilts were stunning. Each one told a story. Here are but a few:
I finally stopped, not sure what else to say. Clearly I had overwhelmed if not alienated Milly and her fellow quilters. I put the brakes on and told Milly all about the Peace Portal, and how making a Peace Quilt would be the culmination of all we had done in the classroom. I held my breath. I asked, “So what do you think?”
Milly quietly put down her sewing. I’ll never forget what she said to me, her very first words:
“I am a traditional quilter. I quilt blocks, squares. I have never seen or done any quilting like that. This would be completely new and different – a challenge – and I’d like that challenge. Yes, I will do this.”
And so, a Peace Quilt was about to be created. First, the children had to design the quilt. What does Peace look like? How does Peace make you feel? How was I going to link that concept of Peace to a quilt? How would I start? What would I say to children? After all, the Peace Portal was last year, and many of the children were new. And then it came to me. I knew right away.
Of course… Gloria!
Yes! Gloria has a blanket. We always called it her blankie. What if she wanted to call it her quilt, her Peace Quilt, because it makes her feel so good…peaceful. Brilliant, Gloria.
Milly came to meet the children, meet Gloria, and hear all about her idea. I have never seen a friendship develop so quickly. Milly and Gloria hit it off right from the start. We gathered for a group meeting. The conversation went something like this:
Gloria (she’s a little frustrated): “Everybody calls this my blankie, but it’s not. I love this. But, it’s a Peace Quilt, not a blankie.
Long pause. Then Gloria continued.
It makes me feel good. I love snuggling with my Peace Quilt. Look at all the pictures. See, there’s a puppy, and lambs. Look at the pink. I like pink. And the best part is the back with all the stars. When I go to sleep at night, I have my stars right with me. This is my Peace Quilt.
Wow! You could have heard a pin drop. Gloria asked, “What do you like on my Peace Quilt?” Fifteen children descended on her, each one wanting to look. After all, they were now really looking at the quilt as if they had never seen it before. It was amazing what they saw. And yes, the stars were the most popular. Gloria then turned to Milly and said “Hi.” They stared at each other. Just stared. Then Gloria spontaneously gave Milly a snuggle in her neck. Milly grinned from ear to ear. “What do you think, Milly? What do you like?” They had a long and lively discussion. Children watched. Gloria said, “We could make our own Peace Quilt! What do you think?” “Yes we can, Gloria.” said Milly.
Over the next week we pooled together all of our ideas. Children had terrific ideas of Peace! They understood. Gloria had helped them to do that.
Little baby peeping chicks
Stars (many votes)
Ocean of blue and green
The color yellow
Truck that goes vroom
We rolled up our sleeves, rolled out the big paper to sketch our ideas, opened our hearts, and got to work! A classroom parent and artist came in put all the ideas of Peace onto paper. Not an easy task when the children are in charge.
Little did I know how the sketch would look, much less the quilt. And then, what would happen with the quilt? How would Milly do this with the children? More importantly, would she connect with children? Stay tuned for Part 3.