Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Blanket

I first saw it on a trip to the antique mall last July.
The blanket was folded and hanging from the rung of an old ladder that was leaning against the wall of a booth in the back of the mall-a booth filled with old wooden tools, chairs and shutters. I was drawn to the color first-my favorite color, somewhere between a pink and a peach, a color I struggle to label. "Salmon" doesn't sound right, but "cinnamon" conjures a darker hue; at any rate, it was beautiful and soft and it drew me to it at a most visceral level. You had to touch it. I looked at the price tag: 48 dollars. It wasn't in the budget, especially in July, especially with my commitment to be mindful of every dollar: 48 dollars was a week of groceries, after all. Better to visit the blanket once in awhile and appreciate it without having to own it. I walked away that day and on several other days over the coming months, never removing it from the ladder rung and unfolding it, never daring to become more in love with it.

On New Year's Day, the antique mall had a big sale, and I returned, hoping that my blanket would be marked down. It was a festive occasion, with dedicated antiquers feasting on homemade treats laid out on tables, drinking coffee and feeling the comradarrie that always wells up when people of like interests gather. I walked straight to the back of the mall and it was still there. The sign on the booth said, "20% OFF", but the blanket's sign said, "FIRM" below the price. I removed the blanket from the rung and draped it over my arm, feeling the thrill of a successful stalk-and-win situation. If the booth's owner would give me the 20% off, I would finally buy it.

As i rounded the corner, a woman browsing with her husband noticed my treasure. She said, "Oh, I love that blanket. I have seen it here before. How lucky that you found it...I was going to go back and get it!" We admired its softness, beauty and pristine condition together for a few minutes before I moved on. A few steps later, another woman, younger, exclaimed, "that is my sister's blanket! She always talked about it!" Another woman, proprietor of another booth, joined us and chimed in, " I love that blanket! And, it is in such good shape! Did you look at it?"
We unfolded it together and held it up; we all cooed and smiled over the lovely design, which appeared with the colors reversed on the other side. It was, I realized, pristine indeed. The delicate blanket stitch around the edge was perfect and there were no stains or worn spots. I began to realize just what a find this blanket was through the eyes of the gathered admirers. I wondered why I had not thought to inspect it before, and I felt a silly sort of pride that it was going to be mine. When a worker asked if she could take the blanket to the register for me, I declined. I was not going to let that blanket leave my arms.
I never did barter with the blanket's owner. I paid full price and I paid it gladly.

I put the blanket on my bed and for the first time looked at the label delicately sewn on to one of the corners. It read, "Orr Health Blanet. The colors of this blanket were inspired by the Holland Tulip." So, a connection to my adopted home town of 40 years. Another sign that this was destiny, this was intended to be my blanket.

I have slept under this blanket on all of these cold winter nights. I have draped it over me while reading in bed. I have spread it out over the bed every morning, carefully smoothing out the wrinkles, my hand delighted by the thick, rich softness of the wool. I now know, through some online research, that it was made in about 1930. With its lack of wear, I imagine that someone got it for a wedding present and, thinking it too expensive a treasure for everyday use, put it in a chest or a closet. Too expensive to use, to fall in love with, to deserve to own. I understand that.

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