—Two days before Thanksgiving 2016
My son, Kadren, asked me a question yesterday. We’d just got home from watching a Jr. High basketball game, and I’d thrown a frozen pizza in the oven for a late supper. He was contemplating the hot, cheesy wedge on his plate. “Dad,” he asked, “you do writing stuff, don’t you?”
I hadn’t realized he’d been paying attention, but he is a bright little guy. “I guess so,” I responded. “Writing and other … stuff.”
He nodded, chewing, deep in thought. “If you had to write about one thing you were thankful for, what would you say?”
“I’m not sure,” I told him, “but I’d make it something simple.”
“Simple?” he asked.
Yes, I replied. If he made it too complex, the reader would not follow along. “Like gravity,” I said. “You wouldn’t want to say you’re thankful for gravity. Although, for heaven’s sake, without it we’d all be in a real pickle. Nobody really cares much if there’s gravity, or not. There just is.”
“Or maybe electricity?” my so-smart-son asked, putting down his half-eaten piece of pizza.
“Electricity?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s complex,” he answered. “And everybody has it and takes it for granted unless it goes out or it’s too expensive, and then nobody’s happy.”
He’d been listening to all my rambling mutterings, after all. I love that kid.
“Yes,” I agreed, “I don’t think I’d say I was thankful for electricity (although I am). It’s too complex a topic.”
“Then what should I write?” he pleaded.
“I’ll leave that up to you,” I answered. “But make it simple.”
I was able to come up with that last bit of self-reliant advice without much hesitation because, frankly, I didn’t have a single idea to offer. No matter how much I wanted to help I couldn’t. I just didn’t know, at that moment, what one thing I would say I was thankful for.
This morning, when I awoke two days before Thanksgiving, the answer hit me. Or, rather, lay above me.
Blankets. I am, I realized, thankful for blankets. (Which you already knew from the title of this, right? I am also very bad at surprises.)
I am thankful for all blankets, thin ones, heavy ones, shiny ones, handmade quilts and store-bought, cotton ones and ones that feel like the softest of cat’s fur.
When I think of blankets, I see my daughter, Angelica, as a young child. She was a lover of blankets and slept, I am not exaggerating, beneath no fewer than eight and sometimes as many as a dozen at a time. And for many years, as I tucked her in at night and we said our prayers, I would be given the wonderful opportunity to fluff each blanket above her to let it settle down, softly down, onto her tiny form.
“I have fluffed enough blankets,” I would sometimes tell her after I’d lifted and floated every blanket like a descending cloud, “to cover Nance County from head to toe.”
“Daddy,” she would scold me, “counties don’t have heads or toes.”
“Couldn’t I maybe skip a blanket or two?” I would sometimes ask. “Or maybe fluff them two at a time?”
“No, Daddy,” she said. “I love you.”
What else could I do?
I fluffed blankets, and I fluffed blankets, and I fluffed them some more. I got, and I say this without bragging in the least, pretty good at flipping the cloth coverlets like a high, wide, air-filled sail over my little girl as she snuggled ever deeper into her safe warm bed.
Angelica is gone, now, off to college.
Oh, she stopped having me fluff her blankets before then, having outgrown, I suppose, the wonder of floating blankets. I do not know how many blankets she sleeps with, now. Too many blankets, she’s likely discovered, are an inconvenience.
Not that I’ve stopped fluffing blankets entirely.
The other morning I went into my son, Curtis’, bedroom to wake him for school. He outgrew me tucking him into bed years ago; although, I do still sneak in a goodnight prayer and a quick kiss on his forehead if I manage to catch him off guard. On this particular morning, he’d kicked off one of the two blankets he sleeps under.
“Hey, Bud,” I said. “Time to wake up.” And I picked up the loose blanket, flicked it full of air and let it settle over him. “School,” I said, realizing at the time it was a contradictory thing to do — fluffing a blanket over him and telling him to get up.
But later, over breakfast, he said, “Dad, when you fluffed my blanket this morning, it felt really good.”
Imagine. From a 15-year-old boy. A complete sentence, even. I was stunned and deeply moved. I’m going to believe he said, in essence, “I love you.”
Yes, blankets are good. I am thankful for blankets. They engulf us when need be and keep us warm. They give us comfort. We wrap our babies tightly in blue or pink blankies, and they are comforted. As storms rage, lightning flashes and thunder rattles the windowpanes, we pull our blankets close, and we are comforted.
Even as winter turns its cold breath upon us, and we huddle beneath a blanket of snow, some for a final time, we are at peace, ready for a long, restful sleep.
Kadren walked into the kitchen for breakfast this morning, two days before Thanksgiving. “I have my idea for school,” he said.
I raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Pizza,” he said. “That’s one thing I’m really thankful for. Cheese pizza. Especially when my Dad makes it for me. Although,” he paused, a mischievous grin lurking at the corner of his mouth, “nobody out-pizzas the Hut.”
“Genius,” I told him. “Pure genius.”