My friends daughter, Rosa, was five when her grandmother died. Shortly after the memorial service, she asked, Now do we make a quilt?
Rosas grandmother had died from complications of diabetes, not AIDS, but Rosa lives in a home where pamphlets about the NAMES Quilt are strewn among stacks of books and newspapers. Rosa knew that rustling fabric helps turn memories into words. She yearned to try to thread a needle.
Knowing how Rosa found comfort in scissors and fabric, I thought about children who havent seen the NAMES Quilt. Reading, like sewing, can be a good way to come together, so I began to write a picture book that answers the question What can we do when someone dies? with We make a quilt. Words and scraps of cloth may seem small, but putting them together makes them larger. In A Name on the Quilt, I wanted to show how one family begins to heal as they work with love and fabric.
A Quilt panel is a tribute to someone who died. Kids may want to give examples of other ways someone may be remembered: by planting trees, writing letters, or keeping a small, special gift. You may want to discuss how memories help the grieving process. How is the Quilt different and the same as national memorials such as the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, Holocaust Memorial or Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.? Students may want to investigate other memorials, such as the new one in Oklahoma City commemorating the tragic deaths there.
Of course any kind of quilt-making is a great way to bring together math skills and art. Sewing is about the only time I use my high school geometry! While quilts made with cloth are comforting and long-lasting, quilts from paper may be made, too. In A Name on the Quilt, the artist, Tad Hills, put each painting in a box, so that all the pictures add up to a sort of quilt.
You might ask your librarian for help collecting the many picture books featuring quilts.
Other books illustrated by Tad Hill are intended for very little hands. If you have a baby in the house, youll want to ooh and ahh at the sweet animals in My Fuzzy Friends.
To read some stories and see photographs of panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, look in your library for The Quilt: Stories from the NAMES Project by Cindy Ruskin with photographs by Matt Herron (Simon and Schuster, 1988).
The Quilt now has more than 40,000 panels representing more than 80,000 lives lost to AIDS. The NAMES Project Foundation raises awareness of AIDS by sending sections of the Quilt to high schools. They provide a curriculum complete with lesson plans, videos, and posters, and most students seem truly moved and changed after this program which helps to put a face on the disease.
To learn more about this program or the Quilt you cna contact people at the Quilts new home at P.O. Box 5552, Atlanta, Georgia 31107.
To learn more or to view panels on-line, go to www.aidsquilt.org/Newsite/