Archive for November 25th, 2008

I’ve been preoccupied the last few weeks. By the time my head hits the flannel sheets, I am out like a light. It’s near Thanksgiving, the time of year when I should be giving thanks. Yet it seems like there is so much wrong with the world. Bad things happening to good people. Why?

I’m thinking about the flannel blankets we had growing up, how Mom used to swaddle my two younger brothers in rectangles of blue flannel. It wasn’t plain blue though, there were little pictures of pacifiers or teddy bears or rainbows on those blankets. Think of the word swaddle, swaddling babes.

I recently ran into a letter I had written my family back in 1968. Or was it 1969? I was with 3 of my siblings in South Carolina visiting my step-dad and his wife. I must have been 13 or 14, a brooding teenager. Yet the letter was so tender.

I described a typical day in the sweltering Southern summer, then talked about how much I missed my two younger brothers, only babies at the time. I was entering junior high when they were born. I felt very nurturing toward them and the love I felt was obvious in the letter. I really missed my new family life in Pennsylvania.

Flannel — it reminds me of how quickly things can change. From summer cotton, to winter flannels. The jeans I used to love with the flannel lining. Warm, soft to the touch, against dry winter skin.

Last night, we were watching a documentary on Ernest Thompson Seton, a New Mexico naturalist who waged war on wolves in New Mexico in the late 1800’s. The head of the wolf pack and King of the Currumpaw, Lobo, was too smart for him and evaded his poison and steel traps. Finally, in desperation, Seton shot and killed Blanca, Lobo’s life mate, in order to catch Lobo. Liz and I cried.

Later, Seton would have a change of heart and let Lobo go. But it was too late. Lobo died of a broken heart. It broke Seton’s heart, too, and from that moment on, he never hunted another wolf. He went on to write Lobo’s story in the book, Wild Animals I Have Known, spearheaded the environmental movement, and helped found the Boy Scouts.

At the rolling credits, eyes red, peering over the top of the down comforter, Liz asked if I was a romantic. I smiled and nodded. It was a rhetorical question. I knew she knew the truth.

“What about you?” I asked. “Are you a romantic?” “Hmmm, sometimes,” she said, taking another bite of her sub. I smiled. “Yeah, you’re half and half.” She laughed. By the time my head hit the flannel sheets, I was already dreaming.

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – FLANNEL SHEETS

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Fresh flannel sheets on the bed last night, I closed the top to my computer and crawled in with ice cube feet and the sheets were like warm layers of cotton. Sometimes when my feet are cold I’ll take them and rub them on Jim’s legs, try to insert little feet between shins or thighs the way I used to with Mom whenever I had leg aches.

Leg aches plagued me more than other ailments as a child, maybe lack of great nutrition—I liked candy necklaces and sugar straws—although I think it was hereditary. Mom’s parents took her to the healing waters of Ojo Caliente and soaked her legs in the pools to drive away the demons.

We sleep with a set of flannel sheets, a blue herringbone blanket made for a double bed not queen (Jim always pulls it too far over, or I do), a quilt Jim’s mom made him in 1981, has a simple rising sun design and a sewn inscripton, Happy Birthday Jim, Love Mom. He loves that quilt. Then a bed cover I got at Linens-n-Things, which Patty C. calls “Sheets-n-Shit.” They’re going out of business.

I like down comforters, Jim dies of heatstroke in them. His mom gave us one for Christmas long ago with a white eyelet cover, pretty and delicate, and when it finally died and the feathers aggregated in thick clumps in the corners, we let it go with one of our annual spring cleaning purges.

I remember most the bedding at Grandma’s house, layers of homemade quilted blankets and bright afghans. There was never rhyme nor reason to her colors. I have an old blanket of hers now with angled edges that Mom sewed where it had ripped and gave to me. Pink checkerboard, lime green, bright orange and red. I see two patches of patterned cloth I recognize from the simple dresses Grandma wore in the mornings while frying bacon, potatoes, and eggs. Each section held with thread in the center, the ends popping up like errant hairs on a chin. I love that blanket, I lie on the couch and cover myself with it whenever we watch movies. Em always gravitates to me during those times and I spoon her the way Mom spooned me, tiny legs tucked into big.

But the thing I remember most about Grandma’s bedding is how it held me down, the weight of it all, pressing me into my dreams. How later on whenever I got X-rays at Dr. Thurman’s office and they placed that iron-like blanket over my small body it would remind me of reams of color, patches of Grandma’s dresses and crocheted yarn, weighing down on me, not like a burden but a release, allowing sleep, finally, to come.

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – FLANNEL SHEETS

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