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 Gloria, Imagination, Inspiration, museums, Peace, preschool, quilting, Teaching young children, The Arts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Milly – Part 4

  1. beth says:

    what an amazing and memorable trip for all –

  2. Dan Antion says:

    This was a remarkable step in a wonderful journey. The children will always have this (as will you and Milly).

  3. What a remarkable, and wonderful thing to happen to you, the classroom, and Milly!

  4. beetleypete says:

    That was such a wonderful trip, and so nice that Gloria was invited along too.
    In 100 years from now, others will read about your quilt, and marvel at Milly’s skill in sewing it.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  5. This is a beautiful post, Jennie.

  6. Ritu says:

    Whenever you share Millie’s journey with, I feel emotional 🥰

  7. This continues to be such a wonderful and emotional experience. Thank you so much for sharing it with us Jennie!🤗

  8. I wasn’t expecting the quilt to become part of a national museum! What a thrill!! I can’t think of anything that could top it. I look forward to Part 5!

    • Jennie says:

      I was as shocked and as thrilled as you! A former student visited the museum some years later to see the quilt. Last year they had a big exhibit of their Peace Portal, and they contacted me for copies of the classroom books we had made. Wow!

      Milly was with me for ten years, so there are more adventures ahead. They’re big. 🙂

  9. Don Ostertag says:

    What an honor! Such a great tribute to the wonderful project.

  10. Lessons in life and love… 💞 Thanks, Jennie, Millie and students!

  11. Fabulous, Jennie. 😁

  12. Even though I know what comes next, I’m holding my breath for your next installment here! HA!

  13. Norah says:

    So exciting. I love this story.

  14. quiall says:

    It is so inspiring that your work, the children’s work is being recognized nationally. People are going to see it for years to come and wonder about the incredible children and their inspiration for peace.

  15. It was so nice that you could take Millie with you to Philadelphia, Jennie. How interesting that she referred to herself as the other woman. Very sad to lose a child like she did.

    • Jennie says:

      I was thrilled that she asked to go. Her humor was always terrific, such as calling herself ‘the other woman’ (she dated a married man). Quilting helped Milly get through the death of her daughter. Since then, she took care of her daughter’s two girls. I met them some years later, and they are very close to Milly. Lovely.

  16. Congratulations, Jennie! What a wonderful surprise. Its indeed a wonderful quilt, and i am sure the students will remember this time, all over their lives. Best wishes, Michael

  17. magarisa says:

    What a special trip!

  18. Jermena says:

    😁 there you go again…
    Of course, we are waiting.

  19. petespringerauthor says:

    What an honor to have your project permanently displayed where thousands of people can read about this remarkable story. You are a master at taking a small project and running with it. Beautiful job, Jennie! Milly sounds like a real character—someone special for you and the children to have in your lives.

    • Jennie says:

      I was shocked, Pete. This was really a great honor. Last year the museum contacted me, as their Peace Portal was a museum exhibit. They wanted the classroom books we had written about the Peace Portal to be part of the exhibit. Big OMG!

      One of my ‘missions’ (poor choice of words) with teachers is helping them to seize the moment when children have a spark, and then fuel that fire. Well, it’s just not an easy thing for teachers, but I will keep trying till my last breath.

      Milly was a hoot! Her attitude and sense of humor was the best, and she had ‘the touch’ with children. She was very special! Thank you for reading and following this series, Pete. More ahead!

  20. Carla says:

    What an amazing and humbling experience this must have been. Something those children will never forget. You are an amazing teacher Jennie and your students are lucky to have you as their teacher. Milly was a godsent to you and your class for this project and may you continue to do these wonderful projects with future generations.

  21. dgkaye says:

    This is a beautiful series Jennie. The quilt will become part of history. ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s