Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I know exactly where it is. I could be sitting 1,000 miles from that tiny, crammed apartment. But I could still tell you exactly where to find it. We have a lot of stuff in our one-room, one-closet home. In the closet there’s a washer unit I don’t know how to use, there’s my husband’s Easter basket from last year that my mother insisted on buying “her Easter-basketless son-in-law.” I’m getting warmer. There’s a trophy my husband won at a horse-shoe throwing competition. It’s appropriately made out of horse-shoes. A tiny horse-shoe man throwing an even tinier horse-shoe. Where do you get such a tiny horse-shoe? Where the heck am I supposed to put this thing? And then there it is.

It is my childhood blanket. Its name is “Fah-Fah.” Or is it? Was Fah-Fah a name or simply a word followed by “my” from back before I knew how to say the word “blanket”? I don’t know who gave it to me how long ago. I could call my mom and ask. The name still stands. Within the last few years I remember my sister asking me, “Do you still have your Fah-Fah?” Yeah, I do.

When I’m holding it, still folded in my arms, I’m afraid to turn the halves into a whole and look at its faded entirety because I know what I’ll see. It’s thin. But it was always thin. It wasn’t designed for warmth, I don’t think. But now when I hold it up to the light I’m almost sure I could read through its faded white background. I see the bright yellow trim where there are now only faded beige outlines. Tweety Bird holding his pastel-colored balloons is only a faded injustice of what he was my entire childhood. And when I run my polished fingertips over the split in the bottom right-hand corner I am back in that summer evening. Or was it summer? It was warm and the yards were green and the wide, black street was clear enough for a bunch of us kids to be having a race on it. On overseas Air Force bases every kid knows each other. Or at least they think they know. I don’t know about Navy or Army bases. My sisters and I had the best wagon on the block, a Radio Flyer whose red metal bed was far from its rusty days to come. There were at least two neighborhood kids being pulled vigorously in the wagon, one sitting on my Fah-Fah, its lemony-yellow corners fluttering in the wind we were making for it. I was at the rear pushing with everything my six-year-old arms and back and chubby legs could give. I think my older sister was pulling. But too suddenly our race or whatever we were driving that Radio Flyer so fast for seemed childish, the way most games do when someone gets hurt. Fah-Fah was stuck in the wheel and wrapping tighter and tighter around and around before I screamed, “Stop!” The awful sound I had heard only moments after I could have stopped it was the sound of a five-inch rip being torn in the corner of my blanket. It sounded over the whoops and hollers of my playmates. It struck me right in my 6-year-old heart. I shoved the wagon on its side. Looking back, I’m hoping I didn’t tip the wagon over while my friends were still inside it. I pumped my legs as hard as they would go toward my house, Fah-Fah under my arm. I am sure there must’ve been a distinct smell of fresh-cut grass, so green in my memory. Inside the house I remember my mother sitting poised on the edge of the couch with a needle (already threaded, of course) in one hand and the other extended for quick deposit of the injured patient. But I know that’s not really where she was. She was probably on an important phone call or baking something sweet or, knowing my parents, she was making out with my dad somewhere. But eventually she was sewing. Her bony, pale hands with the translucent and soft skin revealed every vein in her hands. Watching her hand move with the needle I probably could have learned how each bone moves almost freely to get one job done. But I only cried. My barely-older sister, her round cheeks pink with excitement, stuck her blond head in the front door while my mother was still operating and asked, “Awe you coming back to owah game?” Of course I wasn’t. “No,” I had whined through tears. No I wasn’t. Inspecting the stitch now, 15 years after, I want to call my mother up and tell her what a good job she did. The top stitch closes the gaping hole without much noticeable stitching, and on the back is where she gathered the ripped material and used her sewing machine to do a tight stitch. She did this so that the front wouldn’t look torn—so that I wouldn’t notice it without careful inspection. I’m not going to call her. Because despite her best efforts it is the one spot I think of when I hold it in my arms like a broken and brittle antique. But I'm glad.

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