You’re into high drama, and thrive on stress? Well you have come to the wrong place. You’re looking for the news or housewives of whatever. Go on, scoot.
(Are they gone yet?)
Gooooood. Hello, you. Have a hot drink and a warm pet nearby? Yes you do. Welcome to the coziest content Karrie and I can offer you—short stories about blankets.
It’s been snowing gently outside my attic window all day. Bright and crisp outside, warm and lamplit here under the angles of my roof.
When I glanced out my little window to check the accumulation, my eyes landed on one of my most important belongings, draped over a blue velvet wingback chair. It literally tells its own story. And yes, I know what “literally” means.
In 1937, about this time of year, the Ohio River rose higher and higher from constant rain and snow, until finally it overtook towns all the way from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois. Among the houses engulfed by the rude winter water was my grandpa’s childhood home in Louisville, KY. Only two family belongings survived. His sister’s doll, later found floating peacefully on a couch cushion, and this timeless quilt. The backing is streaked with red stains, a lasting testament to its brush with disaster.
Every good story needs at least a little drama, I guess.
How bittersweet it must have been to for my great-grandmother Audine to retrieve this richly colored souvenir of her previous life, kept safe on a high shelf in her mud-caked home.
Unlike the era’s typical designs, puzzled together from exhausted cotton shirts and dresses, this quilt was a luxurious wedding gift. Her mother had pieced it from velvet samples collected by Audine’s brother, a traveling fine fabrics salesman. Years into the Great Depression, those squares of soft, jewel-toned fabrics must have seemed like jewels themselves.
The quilt continued its adventure through the decades until finally, we met.
Visiting my grandma one afternoon, she suddenly announced that she had something to give me. I followed her into a guest room where she pulled this heavy prize from the depths of a closet. We sat on the four-poster bed where she told me its story. I was shocked I’d never heard of it. The squares were soft as kittens.
This oral history felt as lasting as a snowdrift. I told Grandma I couldn’t stand the thought of a daughter further down our line looking at this precious item and left with an unanswered, “I wonder.” Or worse: garage sale, moving blanket, new puppy pad—oh, I can’t even, I might as well watch a documentary on dolphin hunting. Or some random housewives.
Anyway, Grandma quickly joined my nostalgia police force. We hatched a plan, and drove immediately to a craft store where we found a sweet bordered cloth square and a fabric pen.
I wrote down the entire backstory, including how Grandma had married into the blanket’s family tree not long after Grandpa’s Navy uniform caught her eye in 1945. She hand-stitched the patch onto a back corner with cheery read thread and sent it home with me.
My aunt was greatly displeased when she heard the news. But Grandma knew what she was doing.
A car is sliding to a stop on the street below, time to get back to the present, I suppose. The writing I need to do, not only the writing I love to do.
A few feet away, one of Karrie’s throws is tossed across my tiny sofa in case of nap. A glimpse of it is forming connections in my head like the edits of a movie trailer…
My great-great-great uncle sharing salvaged velvet samples… The yarn Karrie works with, spun from fabric cuttings that have beauty to give.
My quilt, strong enough to survive floods and feuds and time… Me and Karrie on windswept beaches, our blankets braving sand and seawater (then the washer).
My grandma passing on the quilt to me, proudly telling me the family story behind it… Me protecting my eldest by giving him a familiar piece of home for his dorm—the first blanket I ever got from Karrie, named “Kenichi,” Japanese for “healthy first-born son.”
All blankets have the power to satisfy an ancient and global urge. To wrap loved ones in something warm and beautiful. My foremothers made them with their own two hands. And today, well. Ain’t. Nobody. Got. Time. For that.
Ha, I’ll share one last blanket story before I go. Just this moment, a dear friend of mine texted me a photo of her cozy evening, snuggled up with her pets and a glass of wine. Her legs are tucked into one of Karrie’s blankets, a gift from me. It’s another “Kenichi,” in honor of her oldest son, grown like mine.
Maybe my gift will simply warm up her living room for a few years. On the other hand, you never know what may begin a story that lasts for generations.