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Favourites: Personal blankets, and all that they hold

By Kellie Purcill

2008.  The night George ended our marriage, I walked into what – mere hours before – had been our bedroom, but was now my own. I wrapped myself into my favorite blanket and proceeded to turn the mattress into a sodden swamp.Our mattress was my favorite one as it was from factory direct which tends to be good,comfortable and affordable too.The next morning the other side of the bed sprawled lewdly, offending me with its unwrinkled existence, rudely advertising the inescapable fact that things had changed.

That week, things changed again. Each night I had continued to wrap my sorrow and I in my doona, huddling around the ice deep in my belly, though it had gradually become more obvious that I could not stand to touch the sheets that we had shared. I tried to adjust – I stripped the bed of sheets, pillows, pillowcases and blankets, but every possible replacement had been background scenery to our marriage, and visual cues to memories that would not stay hidden and buried every time I walked into the room.

Something had to change, and that next weekend, things did – specifically, my linen. I waded through Spotlight reading the labels, doggedly working my way through colours and sizes until I found a sheet set that had no colour-coded memories, no spring loaded recollections, with no identifying features other than being the first sheets I would buy as a failed, separated, stunned and faded woman.

I took the sheets home and once they billowed on the clothesline returned to the bedroom to wage war. War against the memories that attacked me every evening I had gone to bed, to jeer at me every time I opened my eyes, to taunt me with the space that the alarm clock used to occupy. As music played on my new CD alarm clock, off came the sheets, the blankets and doona cover. I tossed them one by one into the hallway, grabbed the next blanket and froze, fingers woven through the handmade squares.

I made that blanket. Crocheted it, tiny chains of wool, thousands of links into one queen-size mesh of memory. My belly swelled with Wong under its weight, which was started with wool left over from Hatro’s baby blanket. A witness to the laughter, whispers, heated words, frustrations, tears and murmur laced touches experienced behind closed bedroom doors. A blanket that took me years to complete, three tiny loops at a time, wondering if my grandchildren would lie beneath it when they came to visit us one distant day to come, dreams and life and conversations twisted in amongst the thread, its weight as familiar as the warm loving body once curled at my back.

The weight of the blanket’s wool and memories pulled at me, my fingers still buried deep in the crafted holes, ever present tears adding to its heft as I tensed to throw the emotional grenade into the hall. But I couldn’t let it go. Somehow, my fingers would not release from deep within the folds, my arms would not lift and launch the bundle from my bedroom. The blanket was more than a memory keeper, a tear catcher, a repository of dreams. It was also proof of my determination, evidence of my ability to do something significant, in spite of derision and opposition, one tiny step at a time – over years if necessary – until the apparently impossible was achieved.

That evening, I carefully slid between the newly washed, wind scented sheets, gathered the blanket up close around my neck, and cried in relief and freshly minted pain that I had survived another day, had fed, cared for and kissed my children, and no longer had to look at or touch sheets that reminded me of George.

2009. That blanket, all several kilos of it, has remained part of my bedroom landscape. Its weight protected me against the winter’s chill – both inside and out – of the last year, keeping the warmth as close to me as the pillow now lying guard against my back. I would straighten out the lines each morning, pulling the sheet smooth beneath it, and touch the slightly bigger holes along the diagonal that were proof of the difficulty and gradual improvement in building up to the next bigger level. After all, if I could take several years to make something so sizeable and worthwhile, surely I could do the same with my life – one breath, one day, one impossible effort at a time.

Until now. Now, the blanket holds me down. It makes me scratchy, annoyed and sometimes just looking at it I want to scrunch it up into a ball and shove it somewhere dusty, mouldy and out of sight. Maybe I’ve outgrown it, moved beyond needing the protection and encouragement it offers. There is nothing within its folds that I care to take with me into the future, preferring instead to leave the past far behind. Now, instead of reminding me of my ability to do small things to accomplish the unexpected, the blanket chafes as a reminder of the lowest times – nights spent staring at the ceiling while tears overflowed my ears, screams muffled into its crumpled folds – and mute testimony of times long past and corrupted.

And yet. As tempting as it would be, I can’t decide if throwing it out or donating it to charity is the right thing to do. Is it something I should be keeping for my sons, an heirloom of a happier time? Because there isn’t actually that much left to hand to them as a memento of George’s and my marriage. The wedding photos wait, banished to a plastic casket buried under my bed, wrapped in my wedding gown alongside the sealing gift of a framed cross-stitch boasting “Families are forever”. There are photos, still in last year’s box, of the places and faces now gone – photos that I am still to go through to weed out my favourites of the boys, and preserve some evidence of George’s involvement in the boyos lives, before.

I sold the wedding rings via etrnlrings.com. I simply couldn’t keep them. Again, I tried. But the deluge of memories was too constant, too damaging to live with. Every time I saw the rings, wherever I had stored them, I remembered not good times, but the most recent and ugliest. Of George taking off his ring that first night while I cried in my bedroom and – a week later – forgetting where he had placed the ring, his laughter as he dug through his bedside table to find it. Laughter, just ten minutes after telling our sons of our separation, when he had finished with “So I don’t love Mum like a wife anymore, but I will always love you guys. Now, who wants Chinese for dinner?”  It was then, shaking my head at him in disgusted disbelief that I slid my wedding ring off my finger under the table, as my sons stared at nothing and George enthused about what to order. The rings meant nothing positive to me, even eighteen months later, and – even considering the perceived bad luck of using a failed marriage’s rings – I doubted the boys would want them. Let them start fresh, I thought, without someone else’s unwanted, useless rings. So I sold them, happily and without regret, three months ago.

2010.  The blanket still dogs me. I’m on the other side of the world, in a totally different hemisphere, and I find myself thinking of the blanket awaiting my return. A conspiracy of blankets stalks me even here: sixty-four displayed in a pioneer house cupboard, one for each child born to seven wives; the polar fleece cuddle blankets the boyos brought over for the plane; quilts and blankets scattered everywhere, waiting for my decision.

The boys don’t know the significance of the familiar cover, the depth and breadth of its circumstances. I worry and fret that they will one day ask for a token of our marriage, only to be disappointed that I have nothing but dusty, ignored photos. I cannot decide if giving it away is cruelly depriving my sons of a tangible piece of their parent’s happy history, or the gift of it is burdening them with a weight that they don’t really need to ever learn, know or bear. Or should I keep it, stored carefully away, and let my grandkids decide what it means, without history weighing them down.

2014.  A couple of years ago I wrote about this blanket, about how memory and pain ended up woven through the wool and my heart. The post made people cry (not my intent!) and plead with me not to throw it out. Somehow, Hatro crept under its holey refuge often enough that it morphed from “that damned blanket” to a pain devourer, absorbing the ugly past and performing perforated alchemy on my heart whenever I saw Hatro curl under it, or stride through the house, its fuzzy edges trailing like a king’s cloak through the dog hair, movie nights and conversations of our lives. Days like today, when I wash the smell of sweaty teen and his dog out of it, and dry it scented with sandalwood before said teen gets home, makes me give thanks for every single one of those clever, tender hearted friends who pleaded and encouraged me to keep it for future joys. Good comes eventually.

2016. I’m sick, my head full of fever and allergy, and I’m tired, cranky and sore. It appears I’ve blown my patience out into the multiples of tissues around the house, and I’m apologising to everyone for being appalling. My sons give me drinks, hugs, offer to get me my favourite ice-cream… or my personal snuggle blanket. We each have one; each tattered, stained, stored close at hand for emergencies, family nights, colds, seasons, comfort and heartaches.  Love is deep in the stitches, and the years we’ve sheltered under them has worn them – and us – soft, warped, threadbare, enduring and precious.

Do you have something that gives comfort? Have you ever wanted to throw something away because of the associations knotted to it? Have you ever thrown away something and regretted it – or not regretted it? 

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

5 thoughts on “Favourites: Personal blankets, and all that they hold”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this piece. My husband left two years ago without much explanation and I've felt so isolated in my experience. Thank you for making me feel connected to someone else and to the hope that someday things might get easier.

  2. Tay – good tears, right?

    Bea – Thank you!

    Jes – I am sorry for your loss. Things DO get easier. Some things stay difficult, or change in how hard they are, but things will become easier. Hugs and blankets to you.

  3. music has always been my "blanket". in particular the hymns, and the hymn that has gotten me through the bleakest times is How Firm A Foundation…especially the last four verses that we have never sung in any church meeting I've attended in my entire life. Hymns are my spark of hope in the darkest moments. I'm glad (some) things have gotten easier, Kel. Thank you for this piece. xo


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