K. D. Dowdall

Pen and Paper

A Teacher's Reflections

In Part 6, the quilt, Milly, and the children were VIPs aboard the Intrepid Museum in NYC.  What an event!  The museum’s Curator called me to say the quilt was too large to hang at the museum.  Their Executive Board unanimously agreed to give the quilt to the Fisher House Foundation – which was started by Zachary Fisher, who also rescued the USS Intrepid.  So, we were off again…

Part 7

We arrived at the Massachusetts Fisher House with children and families in tow to deliver the quilt.  It was to be a proper send-off.  In turn, they would send the quilt on to the Fisher House Foundation.

Beth the Director abruptly excused herself to make a phone call.  She had seen the quilt and looked rather shocked.  We all looked at each other in very uncomfortable silence.  It didn’t help that you could hear a pin drop in…

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The Legacy of Milly, Part 6

 

 

 

 

In Part 5, the children were over the moon singing “God Bless America” at every opportunity.  We sang for soldiers, and made our own God Bless America book for families, writing and illustrating all the words to the song.  Children still wanted more- I could tell.  Milly to the rescue to make a God Bless America quilt.  The Intrepid Museum in NYC was interested in the quilt!

Part 6

The USS Intrepid was a US Navy aircraft carrier commissioned in WWII and in service through the Vietnam war.  When it was decommissioned in 1974, Zachary Fisher  rescued the ship.  It was restored and opened as a museum in 1982.

I did not know of Zachary Fisher.  He becomes important to the quilt later on.

The children and Milly were treated like kings and queens aboard the Intrepid.  First, we were rescued from the long line by the museum’s Curator and whisked onto the carrier.  We had a personal two-hour tour.  I remember all the old, beautiful brass used throughout the ship, the tight quarters, and displays of Navy memorabilia.  The flight deck is home to many different aircraft.  That part of the ship alone is well worth the visit:

The quilt was put on display in the central part of the ship.  The Curator and other staff were present to see it and give us an official welcome.  The public visited the quilt, oohing and aahing, and asking Milly questions.  And then, the children were asked to sing!  With Milly’s beautiful voice leading the children, “God Bless America” could be heard throughout the ship.  There were school groups who stopped by, excited to see the quilt and ask questions.  I enjoyed asking them to find different parts of the song on the quilt, much like an I Spy.  That was fun!

As our visit was nearing an end, Jessica the Curator pulled me aside to have a talk with me.

“Jennie, the quilt is absolutely stunning.  Thank you so much.  Our Executive Board meets the first of each month, and the quilt is on their agenda.  I will be calling you soon.”

Awesome!

A few weeks later Jessica called.

“Jennie, I have good news, although not what you imagine.”

“Okay.”  My heart was pounding.

“The Executive Board feels the quilt isn’t the right size for the Intrepid Museum.  Space and hanging will pose a problem.  It’s too large for the very limited wall space on the hanger deck.”

“I understand.”  My heart was sinking.

“They have made a unanimous decision.  Unanimous!  They love the quilt.”

“Okay.”  My heart was soaring.

“Do you know of Zachary Fisher?”

“I believe he was the guy who rescued the USS Intrepid and turned it into a museum.  Right?”

“Right.  But he did much more than that.  He was a philanthropist and a great supporter of the Armed Forces.  He established many different foundations.  One of the biggest and most important is the Fisher House Foundation.  They provide “homes away from home” for families of hospitalized military personnel.”

“Wow.  Like Ronald McDonald houses for families of sick children?”

“Exactly.  The Executive Board wants to donate the quilt to the Fisher House Foundation.  I hope you agree with me and with the Board that this is quite an honor.”

“Of course, Jessica.  And thank you so much.”

So, the God Bless America would take another twist and turn.  Milly thought this was one of the best adventures.  “Jennie, we had a great trip to the Intrepid.  They wanted to see the quilt and have us visit.  And now, there is something new.”  I just love(d) Milly.  First, I received a phone call from the head of the Fisher House Foundation.  Obviously the Intrepid Museum had been in touch.  They’re located in Rockville, Maryland.

We decided it would be appropriate and fun for the children to deliver the quilt themselves to a Fisher House in Boston.  In that way, it would be more ceremonious and meaningful.  And, more children and families could attend since this would be nearby- not in New York City.  The Fisher House could then mail it to the Foundation.

Perfect.  Or so I thought.

We arranged for this big event.  Everyone wore red, white and blue.  We all met at the Fisher House, which had just been built that year (an important part later).  Beth, the Director, greeted Milly and the children with such warmth.  We were escorted into the living room where we unveiled the quilt.  Beth’s eyes were as big as saucers.  She hadn’t said anything.  Then she said, “Will you please excuse me while I go make a phone call?”  When she returned, I never expected to hear what she was about to say… stay tuned for Part 7.

 

A Teacher's Reflections

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…

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Yes, KC, Literature is global and has always been global. I think of Pearl S. Buck and her book, “The Good Earth”. A book I fell in love with. It too was about oppression and oppressors and then there is “A Tale of Two Cities” about the French Revolution, that happened about 10 years after the American Revolution, so Literature either initiates or follows closely most world events. Both of those works of Literature helped to change the world. Obviously, those two individuals in the bookstore, are dumb bunnies who don’t know that Literature, in all it’s beauty and pathos, informs, creates, and destroys in equal measure and almost always for the good of humanity. Thank you for this, once again, incredible and informative essay about books, literature, and learning. Perhaps, one day those two people will wish they had read the above books mentioned.

Zombie Salmon (the Horror Continues)

These offensive political times have created some very interesting conversations.

Take the recent one I overheard at my bookstore, wherein two people (one male and one female) discussed the continuing tweet-commentary of J.K. Rowling with regard to the U.S. President.

He: “She needs to just shut up and write kids books.”

She: “I agree. I’m not even sure I want her books in my house or my kids to read her.”

He: “She needs to stay in her lane. She’s not even American. She doesn’t have any business commenting on our President.”

Way to display your ignorance of the true nature of Literature… and in a bookstore, of all places…

JK1The Proof Is In Our Literature

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the classics. But the reason we are overwhelmed is because no one ever points out to us that Literature is all about multiple meanings. It is made…

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This is a beautiful and so very wise poem by Didi Oviatt. Trees are a wonderful metaphor for strength of purpose in good times and bad. So, “Be The Tree”! Thank you, Didi, for sharing!

Didi Oviatt

Warped are the roots, yet tall’s the old tree,

What hides beneath the surface is strength, you see.

Stronger with age, finds growth through the muck,

The path of each finger searching sustenance, not luck.

It either moves or it crushes some rocks in their way,

Or it tunnels around, finds other places to stay.

The tree trusts in its roots as they move at snails pace,

It’s not a competition, a judgement, or race.

Limbs grow tall, stretch out find potential,

The sun as their guide, giving love, shining light.

The journey’s individualized, beautiful, unique,

So trust in your roots… be strong, be the tree.

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The Legacy of 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.

 

A Teacher's Reflections

In Part2, Milly came onto the scene, meeting the children and Gloria.  She accepted the “challenge” – as she called it – of quilting a mural which would become a Peace Quilt.  Gloria started the ball rolling with her own blankie, actually her personal Peace Quilt.

Part 3

As I collected photos for this story, look what I found in my archives:
the original sketch!

When the sketch was finished and children had decided that the quilt would be ‘just so’, they spent time coloring their design.  This solidified their images of Peace and reinforced how they wanted the quilt to look.  It was coming to life.

Milly came to school every week with fabrics.  They were gorgeous!  I asked her if she had purchased them at JoAnne Fabrics.  Her silence was deafening.  I compare this faux pas to asking a lady wearing an original Oscar de la…

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