I grew up in a house that was built in the early part of the 20th century. When winter’s cooler weather came along, it was expected that our old house with it’s ten foot ceilings and questionable insulation would take a turn for the chilly. Please understand, what I’m trying to describe was not poverty or lack of provision by my parents. I am not trying to claim a tragic childhood; in fact, I consider myself blessed in that I had a rather idyllic experience growing up. No, what I’m speaking of was a house with sturdy walls and windows that, as many things built in during that time, adjusted with the seasons.
What I do remember is having a house with pockets of warmth during the winter. The glowing hot prongs of the wall radiator always entranced me. The oven which was in the center of the kitchen in the center of the house, exuded both heat and sustenance. Slipping on jeans hot from the dryer was one of life’s greatest joys.
But the source of warmth that I remember most tactilely were the piles of blankets and quilts that graced everyone’s bed at the end of the day. As the temperatures dropped, this strata of fabric and polyfill acted as everyones’ personal nocturnal igloo. I remember the comforting weight of the yarn looped countless times into enough granny squares to cover a full bed. I remember the itchy filling of a particularly loved blanket that had be been used and washed and used and washed and used and washed so many times that it was threadbare. This is the same blanket I insisted having on my bed despite it’s ratty appearance and questionable usefulness. I remember the multi-colored cotton squares that had been remnants of my mother’s childhood dresses and suits and coats. I remember looking over these squares trying to see a pattern in the randomness and only finding the warmth and love with which it was constructed. I remember the seeming feats of engineering that my father performed as he tucked me into bed. He was able to cover every square inch of my head while, at the same time, keeping my mouth and nose uncovered so I had the luxury of both fresh air and a warm head. To this day I still wonder how he accomplished this.
Fast forward twenty-something years to this past Christmas when I opened a gift from a friend to see a pair of blankets that resembled those of my long forgotten childhood igloo. Ever since I had moved from my childhood home and discovered the luxury that is central heating I no longer needed the piles of warmth. But while we visited one of our favorite antique stores she saw how I fawned over these items. And while I can not say I had a conscious memory of those chilly childhood nights either the day I first saw those blankets or the day that I opened my perceptive friend’s wonderful gift, I know that there is something absolutely visceral about my love for these objects.
Lately, I’ve had this quiet but insistent desire to make warm things for my loved ones. I’m knitting hats, mittens, scarves, and, yes, blankets for those I consider important to me and hope to give some of them as Christmas gifts. It’s only when looked at from a distance that I understand my need to follow these inclinations. In giving warmth I want to give the recipient something much more than an object to be stored in a closet or a decorative item to be placed on a bed. It’s the feeling of being loved and protected from the meanness of the world that I experienced all those years ago with that pile of blankets in a house with wondrous pockets of warmth that I am trying to share.