A faded purple comforter with raggedy edges can often be found crumpled in the corner of our family room sofa. Upon investigation, there is nothing overtly special about this blanket. In fact, the general wear and tear on it would suggest that it is a blanket that one should strongly consider getting rid of. It was never of high quality to begin with; I’m sure my mother picked it up at Walmart or Kmart in one of those bed-in-a-bag deals.
However, the blanket is almost twenty years old, and over time a series of memories and feelings have been woven into its fabric making it hard to throw away.
The only word that I can think of to describe my feelings about this comforter is HOME.
My mother surprised me with the comforter the first time I came back home from college during my freshman year. It was Thanksgiving break, and I missed home desperately. Although I had insisted that I wanted to go away to college, I was homesick as soon as I watched my family pull away from the dorms.
My school was four hours away, so I had only seen my parents once since settling into my dorm room in mid-August. They had visited during parents’ weekend, but the visit had only brought news of my mother’s newly diagnosed disease and none of the comfort and familiarity that I had thought it would.
When I arrived home during that first break, I was filled with a mixture of relief, anxiety, and incredible sadness. After greeting my family, I lugged my bags down the stairs to my bedroom and was surprised to find my ridiculously bright, geometric-patterned comforter replaced with a pale purple one printed with swirls of flowers. Purple was my favorite color.
I spent most of that break crying into that comforter as the reality of my mom’s diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) set in. The following year, I transferred colleges and came home to spend more time with my mom. Another year passed, and again I found myself crying into the purple flowers after my mother’s funeral.
After several moves and almost twenty years later, I still have that comforter. It bounced along with me from apartment to apartment before it was replaced with a new comforter. It was then relegated for use during camping trips and guest visits.
Now, my family and I use it when we watch movies in our cold, downstairs family room. My kids and I cuddle underneath it, a tangle of warm limbs, while it catches the piles of popcorn that somehow do not make it into their mouths.
It’s falling apart now. The threadbare fabric is torn in some spots, and recently the seam of one side completely ripped apart. As its cotton filling spilled out into the dryer, I suddenly realized how much the blanket meant to me.
This comforter reminds me so much of coming home during my first break all those years ago. It doesn’t necessarily recall the sadness and heartache I felt over my mother’s impending death, but it reminds me of the warmth of stepping into my childhood home again, the comfort of just being close to my mom.
My mother knew what the news of her disease would do to me, knew that her middle child was excellent at holding in her feelings and would shy away from overt attempts of comfort. She knew that I would pretend everything was okay when really it was far from it.
She knew that she could do little to make the situation better for me. Purchasing the comforter, making my bed, and giving me a soft place to land was her hug to me. A hug that unexpectedly lasted for years, and one which I get to share with my own children, her grandchildren, now.