September 19, 1952 Charles M. Schulz introduced the world Linus van Pelt. Insecure but balanced as astutely intellectual, Linus’ most memorable feature is his trusty blue blanket. Donald Woods Winnicott introduced the concepts of “transitional objects” naming blankets as one of the key ways children overcome anxiety and Linus ran with it. Producer Lee Mendelson adored him and his blanketware while Linus’ fictional grandmother despised the blanky and all it stood for in Linus’ youth despite his philosophical and theological accomplishments. The Peanuts blanket is an icon unlike most any other prop in fiction to that point or since then, with a personality superimposed on it of its own.
For many of us, we probably had youthful objects of our own. A teddy bear or other doll, a piece of clothing or the all cliched blanket. I did. I can admit it. I had a well, well worn Pooh bear that is still boxed with my childhood memorabilia and a knitted child hood blanket. The blanket spent an inordinate length of time with me, like Linus, I suppose, although, it never left being a fixture on my bed, unlike Linus. It was a very soft, primarily white yarn with highlights in pale blue and occasionally pink lines, edged with a soft, smooth satinesque one inch trim. It’s exactly what you imagine wrapping a child of the 70s in, no doubt.
Since that blanket there have been others. My grandmother knitted and she provided many a blanket over the years that adorned our living room, for daily use and special occasions. I have a memory of one with a black, orange and white pattern that I associate with her but can’t for the life of me actually be sure she made it, but nonetheless it was always around when I think back. It is certainly not the centerpiece of those recollection. But, it seems to be there unrelentingly which probably means more than if it really was as omnipotent as it appear to be. The blue and black one I’ve had for as long as I can remember in my adult life with a very similar pattern is probably one of hers too but again I can’t remember her actually making it specifically for me. I just know that it’s the backup blanket for nearly everything and thus, it’s just always been there.
Then, there’s the store bought ones. Most of these are easily forgotten. They lack the personal affiliation or the hand craftsmanship to last beyond their short term means. They lack that authenticity to build a bond with. They lack personality to really leave a lasting impact.
However, some manage to stand out. The one I’m most grateful for at the moment is a chocolate brown microfiber one. It is insanely soft. Like the kind of soft that when you lie on it on a hardwood floor makes you feel like you’re on a cushy bed. The kind of soft that you melt into when you have it wrapped around you to the point of tension and stress disappearing. The kind of soft that when you’re sad it feels like the deep hug you desperately need. It isn’t heavy or overly fluffy as much as it is broken in the way your favorite jeans, leather boots or flannel would be.
When I first bought it, it was to supplement my favorite flannel sheets and a down comforter in a cold northeast facing apartment where the bedroom was at the end of the duct work of a weak forced air system. It didn’t take long for it to move from a utility to a preference because of it’s qualities. I don’t associate it to anything specific but memories of reading wrapped in it in the candlelight during the big power failure to cooking soup with it wrapped around me when I was sick, from falling asleep on the stoop one summer’s evening after trying to grill with the neighbors to using it to comfort my pain from a broken hand while refusing to indulge in the painkillers I was prescribed, from fighting off sadness after a breakup to fake wearing it like a cape after I got my matriculation papers for my masters degree, it was just there. I didn’t much think about it then. I wouldn’t have thought back about it except that it keeps just being there.
When I first introduced it to my new family there was some skepticism. It was just another factory made blanket that was part of a thrown together decor, tossed recklessly over the back of the couch. Until the day that soft, comforting warmth was needed. In time, those here and there moments became routine to the point where it wasn’t me prompting its use. I found myself fighting not only with my wife for my trusty blanket, but with the dog as well. It seems the affinity goes beyond even mere human consumption.
In time the blanket took more than just the tactile feelings. I never thought much about the scent of it. I suppose it probably smelled like me and like New Jersey for a long time which would have made me anosmiatic to it. These days however, there’s always this faint smell of her perfume on it. Of the dog on it. Of the fireplace on it. And, in general our lives together. Even when I blow it out or wash it when it gets dirty it doesn’t take long for it to reabsorb us and enliven itself to our lives once again.
When my wife is away, I’m more apt to sleep on the couch. Not because I’m being a lazy bachelor who won’t go up to the bedroom but because the vast majority of cuddling we do is with that blanket around us and it is on the couch. I could take it to the bedroom but that’s not the same as just wrapping myself in it in the way we cuddle and just falling asleep there with the dog who nuzzles himself into his favorite spot.
The blanket without trying has embedded itself into our lives. Despite it being inanimate it’s endeared itself to us. It provides that youthful, primal comfort. It lifts us from our insecurities and reenforces our strengths much like Linus’ blanket did for him.
There’s nothing I look forward to more on the long walk home from the train station in the dead of winter tht getting under that blanket with my little family these days. That is something of a nice feeling. And one, I believe I should focus on now…