To All the Blankets I’ve Loved Before

With fall in the air, the nip and chill makes everyone turn toward all things cozy, warm, and snuggly. It’s a deeply instinctual homing device. Something inside us says get inside, eat something warm, and get a blanket. What’s better on a fall night? In honor of the chilly season, I specifically salute you, warm cozy blankets. You make Minnesotan falls and winters so much better. If blankets had ears, I’d serenade them in a Spanish accent like Julio Iglesias, “To all the blankets I’ve loved before…”

Our two little ones wrapped up in the afghan made by my grandma, watching early morning Sesame Street.

My first blanket love was my blankie. Someone gave it to me as a baby gift, a rainbow of soft pastel rectangles on the front, a layer of fluff in the middle, and light yellow on the back. As far back as I can remember, that blanket was my everything: my rock, my shield, my fortress against every danger, especially the ones that lurked in the night.

Scared of the dark at night, I always brought along my blanket on the midnight bathroom trips. I held it up next to my face, and blocked the view of the open stairwell, so I couldn’t see the monsters and bad guys that lurked on the landing waiting to get me. My blankie protected me, because everyone knows that if you can’t see the monster, it can’t reach out and grab you. During the daytime, if I held my blanket, the spiders under the basement steps wouldn’t get me when I walked up.

When I was sick, my feverish state made my bedroom ceiling grow gigantic, high, and ominously confusing, but my blanket made it all ok. On numerous occasions, my mom wrapped a hot water bottle in my blanket to press against my ear in the long nights of ear infections. And on those completely disorienting childhood nights when I woke up and found the wall was on the wrong side of the bed after doing a 180 spin in my sleep, as long as I could pat around and find my blanket again, I would be ok, even though somebody had inexplicably moved my wall in the middle of the night.

In the mornings as a kid, I’d haul my blanket downstairs. When I was done with it, I hung it on the post at the bottom of the stair railing until bedtime, because that’s where blankets go. And I have to say, I was thrilled to see that the stair banister in our new house is identical in style to the one in the farm house growing up. I know just where to hang my kids’ blankies when they drag them down the steps in the morning.

A typical sight at our house, two favorite blankies hanging on the steps.

I used my favorite blanket far beyond the acceptable age to have security blankets, but I didn’t care. It’s role just changed as I grew up. In high school, I wrapped my good old blankie over my head to keep the sun out of my eyes as I slept until noon on Saturday mornings.

My beloved blankie is still around, up in my mom’s attic. After years of love, the puffy batting in the middle evaporated to just a few clumps in the corners, the cheery yellow on the back faded to off white, and if held up to the light, the blanket is but a thin, gauzy remnant of what it used to be. But a blanket like that is like the Velveteen Rabbit from the classic children’s story: it becomes much more as it dwindles to less. The most pitiful looking baby blankets are the most beloved. I remember a friend’s little sister proudly hugging her ratty baby quilt with missing strips of fabric, and announcing that the holes in her blanket were “full of love.” I believe they were. So many blankets are full of love.

On a similar vein, I often hear the expression that “food is love.” Making food to feed the ones you care about certainly is one of the highest forms of showing you love someone. I get that. Minnesotans don’t go around babbling “I love you” all over the place, that’s just a little too much. But making food to fill up someone’s belly, now that’s love. With that same line of thinking, I’d also add that making a blanket is love, too. A homemade blanket is the Minnesotan hug–warmth, comfort, love, and security against the harshness of the world outside.

My grandma was a blanket-maker extraordinaire. She crocheted an afghan for each and every one of her grandkids, well over 30 in all. Hours and hours of her day passed with a crochet hook and yarn in her hands, during Days of Our Lives and the news, day after day, always a crochet project in the basket next to her chair. She’s now 100 and her crocheting days have passed, but the afghan she made for me when I was a kid still looks beautiful. My three-year-old now uses it to stay warm in the mornings when he watches cartoons before breakfast, wrapping himself up in a yarn nest in the middle of the floor. It’s just yarn, but it’s love. I know it.

As a mom, one of my very favorite things is tucking my kids into their blankets at night. While they have mounds of blankets, each kid has one special blanket. There is never a question about what blanket is being looked for when we hear, “Where’s my blanket?” For all four kids, The Blanket is two layers of fleece, cut into a fringe on the edges, with the fringes from each side tied together to make a double-layer blanket.

My first daughter received her fleece blanket as a gift, and she loved it so much that I made a tied fleece blanket for our other kids, too. Those blankets are addictive. When brand new, they’re intoxicatingly soft and cuddly. Every time I’d nurse someone for a nap or bedtime, I’d grab the baby’s fleece blanket to keep us both cozy. After repeated use and lots of washings, the fleece blankets pill and lose the magical softness, but by then, it doesn’t matter. Our kids are hooked. Hour upon hour I’ve watched our four babies snuggled up next to me, nursing and holding the fringed edge of the fleece blanket, absent-mindedly rubbing fringes between their fingers until they fell asleep. It’s security and contentment, snuggled together in a fleecy package.

My oldest daughter’s fleece blanket used to be pink on the back side. Six years and a half years later, it’s now barely pink, barely soft, and far too tiny to wrap herself up in it. But like Linus, she still hauls it most everywhere. Wadded up into a ball and tucked up against her cheek, it is the perfect night-time protection against the wolves and bears she thinks lurk around our house at night. Judging by the fact that she loves sleep and loves blankets as much as me, she’ll probably still use her blankie as a teenager, to drape across her eyes when she sleeps in until noon on Saturdays. I understand that kind of blanket love, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

So, blankets, I salute you. For all the comfort you’ve given me, allow me to serenade you one last time with Julio Iglesias,

“To all the blankets I once caressed,
And may I say I’ve held the best
For helping me to grow
I owe a lot I know
To all the blankets I’ve loved before…”

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21 thoughts on “To All the Blankets I’ve Loved Before

  1. This is absolutely perfect!!! I love how you use song lyrics (with your own words) in your stories..cracks me up every time!! And of course I LOVE what this story is about…because I am a blanket lover too!!! Are you going to be featured regularly in your newspaper??? I am so excited for you that this got put in!!!

    • I actually started writing because of my hometown’s weekly newspaper. The editor put in an ad asking for a weekly columnist since the one they had was leaving. He needed some “filler space” of a column in the weekly newspaper. (Small town, not always much going on.)

      I’d always kind of wanted to do that, and I finally got up the guts to send in an email to the editor, and started doing weekly columns. Everything that’s been on my blog here is actually just the weekly columns that I write for the paper. I only do one a week, and it seems to take a lot of time, so I’m amazed at how much writing you do!

      • Wow, that is so cool! What a great little part time gig! Your town must get such a kick out of it because I’m sure it’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen! I too am going to have to go down to about once a week as well. This summer when I started I was getting up at 5am to write and get my post out by 6:30 but now my mornings are filled with getting things ready for school. The only time I have to write is when my littlest one is napping in the afternoon. Sometimes I’m able to write and get a little housework in but lately it’s got too much and some projects around the house have been put on the back burner. I need to take some time and get these things done!

  2. How lovely that your grammy made afghans for all her grandchildren! 30! Amazing
    I love your blog — I’ve nominated you for the Blog on Fire award. Feel free to accept or not accept — No pressure. It took me a month to get my acceptance post up…so I understand ambivalence!

    • My grandma is quite a lady. She’ll be 101 this month! In her prime she could do it all, milk cows, drive tractors, make delicious rolls, crochet. Amazing.

      Thank you for the nomination of the award! I appreciate it.

  3. I loved your stories about blankets. My son’s blanket ended up being about 3 inches square and he clutched it to himself when he went to sleep. I have my fav blankets. When I was undergoing radiation for breast cancer I wanted my very old, well washed but still wonderful white wool blanket. I just liked the feel of it. Virginia

    • That’s a sweet story about your son’s blanket, and I’m glad you had a favorite blanket that was comforting during your cancer treatments. I love creature comforts. Hope you are now in good health these days, and for many days to come.

      • Kath a couple of months ago I had my last check-up at the cancer clinic. Said good-bye to my wonderful oncologist. Unless a mammogram says different I have beaten breast cancer. I was fortunate as I was detected very very early. Virginia

      • Kath a couple of months ago I had my last check-up at the cancer clinic. Said good-bye to my wonderful oncologist. Unless a mammogram says different I have beaten breast cancer. I was fortunate as I was detected very very early. Virginia

  4. I am so delighted to see in recent years , hand made blankets coming back in favour. When I stop to admire a new baby lately they usually have a dear little blanket made by a family member. It warms my heart. Your blankets are lovely and thank you for sharing them with us.

    • I agree! The handmade blankets that I received as baby gifts for our kids are treasures. It just means so much to see something that was made by someone else’s hands, someone who spent hours working on that gift.

  5. I just counted 8 blankets in my living room, for snuggling and staying warm! Long gone are the baby, and kid blankets–but we all love to wrap up in a good blanket! Great post–and cute kiddos. Stacey

      • That is so funny, I remember one time, years ago-(like a car full of young kids) we were talking about what we would do if we won the lottery–My first thought was really cute, really nice bedding for each of my kids! And lots of towels that matched! My family laughed at me! But if I won the lottery it would still be top on my list! To bad I will never win, because I never buy tickets! But I did splurge on some really nice sheets, and new quilt from TJ Max recently! and gasp even bought new down pillows…my youngest is 11–the only one home to still snuggle.
        We love to pile in and watch movies. Ahhh, good times.
        Have a wonderful day Kathy, nice to meet you.
        Stacey

  6. We love blankets around here! This post brings back good memories of my favorite blanket growing up. My brothers and I would snuggle under our special blankets carefully placed over the floor vents trapping the heat inside for extra warmth! And don’t even get me started on what great forts blankets make! Blankets tend to make my living room messy, but they are totally worth it!

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