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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

where memories live

imageThis is the tag on my father’s blanket. The blanket he had long before I was born, probably bought before my mother reunited with him in the Phillipines, 13 months after they married.

It’s a softly worn (once scratchy) wool, something like the old Pendleton three-stripe blankets (and it has three black stripes). Years ago, it had a Christmas green hand-stitched binding. Now, it has a black binding, hand-stitched with love by my baby sister.

When my mother was in the hospital for several months, and we realised she would never be able to live w/out care again, we divvied up most of her things. She couldn’t take an entire houseful (a stuffed-to-the-windows house full!) to her new assisted living apartment. So my math whiz husband figured out a fair way for us to each (the four sisters) ‘bid’ on my mother’s things.

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I realise this sounds macabre — or worse — to some folks. But we wanted to be fair, and there was no hope (given my mother’s Alzheimer’s and her physical fragility) that she would be able to live even with my 2nd sister, who had kept Mother for some time.

My mother’s life was as full of travel as my own — perhaps even more. Her house was full of memories: exotic carved chests and lacquered hangings; precious jewels (emeralds and rubies and gold and a LOT of silver); Thai silk and brocade; furniture and housewares and china and you can’t even imagine it all.Daddy with Buick

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I bid on this old blanket. Not on emeralds, as my husband still teases me. Not on sterling flatware, or even a bronze tea set. But on my father’s old blanket. Because to me, it’s a tangible reminder of Daddy.

As a Buddhist, I try hard not to get too attached to ‘things.’ It’s just stuff, I used to tell my mother when she bemoaned a broken plate, a cracked vase. And watching as my husband refused to leave a war zone — just to ship stuff home! — almost did me in. NOTHING is worth a life.

But memories are odd creatures, and build nests in strange places. This blanket lay on Daddy’s bed sometimes, although my mother had beautiful linens. But this was Daddy’s special blanket (I still don’t know why), and it made every one of our many moves. Ending up (for me, at least), forgotten at my sister’s, who promised to rebind it. It made a move with her, as well — into her darling new duplex apartment.

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And now it’s home, with me. I look at it, thrown over the sofa in the family room, and the room shifts: my father is sitting in another living room, and we’re talking about something. It doesn’t really matter what. For that priceless moment, I can see him, hear his voice, smell his distinctive aftershave&sweat&Stetson hat smell. That’s what I bid on. It just happens to live inside a soft, 70-year-old blanket. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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