When I was a child, I carried around a ragged old blanket with me wherever I went. Although it was a lovely gift given to me when I was a baby, the years were not kind to my poor, raggedy blanket. Its color changed from a pristine white to a sullied sort of greige after being dragged and trampled all over creation. The trim came off in places and a hole formed in the middle (which my mother kindly sewed back together for me), but my blanket didn’t lose its appeal. In fact, it seemed the longer I owned it, the more attached I became to it, even sneaking it with me to my college dorm room freshman year (hiding it inside of my pillowcase).
There is just something about a blanket that whispers comfort and safety. Linus from the Peanuts Gang has tapped into that secret. A really good blanket is not just something that you own; it becomes a part of who you are — your very legacy woven into the fibers.
When I open my linen closet, I am flooded with memories stacked on the shelves. Blankets, like snapshots, remind me of moments from the past. My firstborn had a green blanket made especially for him by my Aunt Sondra. While he has long outgrown it, I know I’ll never throw it away. When I see it, I’m immediately taken back to the days of his infancy. I remember learning how to swaddle for the first time using that blanket, watching him struggle through tummy time on that blanket, and taking month-by-month photos of him with that blanket as the backdrop. I can smell it and still pick up the faint scent of baby shampoo. When I hold that blanket, I feel a hint of longing for the days when things were simpler. When I spent hours rocking my newborn son in a glider chair, and his every problem was easily fixed by giving him more milk.
It’s more than just a blanket; it represents a moment in time that I’ll never get back.
Some blankets harbor painful memories. I remember being in the hospital after losing a baby, my big postpartum belly feeling painfully empty and still. My mother sat with me by my bedside for hours, and as she sat, she worked on knitting a purple blanket. I was too distracted by my grief to really give it any thought; I assumed she was just passing the time. But when we left the hospital, she gave me the blanket. It was a tangible offer of safety and comfort in the midst of a season in my life that was incredibly devastating, and I used it often in the months that followed. It’s been years since then, and while I’ll never get rid of it, I can’t just casually use it as a throw blanket. I feel a catch in my throat every time I see it folded up in my linen closet, because it immediately takes me back to the time and place when my mother gave it to me.
That blanket will always remind me of my lost child.
During the very first week of January in 2020, when everyone was still recovering from the Christmas holiday, my friend convinced me to take a workshop class to learn how to make chunky knit blankets. We took the class, and over the course of the rest of the year, I used my (unexpected) abundance of free time to make several more chunky knit blankets. Knitting blankets became my go-to method for stress relief, and I gave them to all of the special people in my life. I made an ivory throw blanket for my sister to celebrate the purchase of her new home. I made a blanket for my mom, which feels like a tiny offering compared to the many blankets that she’s made for me over the years. I made a blanket for my sister-in-law — turquoise, to match her seaside apartment and love for the ocean.
They were gifts that took hours of labor and love, woven into every stitch.
One day, as I rolled a shopping cart through the yarn department of Jo-Ann Fabrics, my four-year-old made a mad grab for some rainbow-colored yarn. I tried to put it back on the shelf, but he made a desperate plea: “PLEASE, Mama! Make me a blanket, too! I want a rainbow blanket, just for me!” I couldn’t help but think of little Dolly Parton and her coat of many colors. I just had to make him that blanket.
Our family is now going through a season of difficulty and separation. The rainbow blanket has become even more important in helping my son feel a sense of sameness and home even though we’re not all living under the same roof anymore. While we’re in the midst of this stressful time of tumultuous change, we need to grab onto all of the safety and comfort that we can get. One day, this too shall pass, and the rainbow blanket will be retired and placed on the shelf. While we probably won’t casually use it anymore, we won’t throw it away, either. We’ll keep it as a reminder of the trials and challenges we’ve overcome.