“Oh my! It’s so…unusual!”
Donna felt the words catch in her throat as she struggled against her immediate reaction to the gift her aunt had given her. The old blanket she now held in her hands was unusual and, for the most part, colorful, but careworn and frayed around the edges. It was just the sort of gift she’d come to expect from her eccentric Aunt Gussie.
“I’m so glad you like it,” Gussie exclaimed, almost gushing. “I know it’s old and probably doesn’t match your décor, but there’s a lot of history and love in that old thing!”
To say it didn’t match the décor in Donna’s home was an understatement. Donna’s home—her life—was the classic exemplar of monochromatic order. Donna loved for everything to be “just so.” She’d always been that way—it was how she’d been raised. “A place for everything, and everything in its place!” she loved to say, emphasizing the last word as she moved something that didn’t “belong” to a well-hidden spot, out of sight and out of mind.
For Donna, a happy home was an orderly home. No mess, no fuss, no dirt, no grime. And, as a new mother, she worked extra-hard to maintain that sterile and antiseptic environment. In fact, she laughed along when others joked about her color scheme—“white on white”—but, in reality, she didn’t see it as a laughing matter at all. To her, this represented perfection.
White subway tiles gleamed in the kitchen and bathroom. Lacy white curtains danced in the nursery windows. Like a summer cloud, mounds of pillows billowed atop a cushy white duvet in the master bedroom. A landscape of plush white carpet lay softly underfoot.
Gussie continued. “I’ve added all these squares over the years. I know it’s a mishmash of fabrics and colors, but each of them is so interesting and each one has a story!”
“Interesting, indeed” Donna thought. Browns against pinks, stripes abutting plaids, polka dots and tiger prints, burlap, satin, and tweed together. Each piece a different size and shape, a hodge-podge of textiles. The only thing Donna found attractive about the quilt was the perfect, pure white square in the middle.
Donna kissed her Aunt Gussie with gratitude, folded the blanket neatly, and laid it aside for the remainder of her visit. They shared memories and family stories and the latest baby pictures. They giggled and gossiped, and finally, the time came for Aunt Gussie to leave.
As they hugged one another goodbye, Aunt Gussie looked Donna in the eye: “Please take care of the little blanket. It’s so delicate around the edges and…well…just take care of it, please dear.”
“Of course...I will definitely take care of it, Aunt Gussie,” Donna replied, as Gussie made her way to the small compact car she’d driven for years.
As Donna closed the door behind her, she turned and saw the blanket on the couch. Against the backdrop of pure white, it seemed to scream at her. How could she let her little one near such a thing?
Donna looked closely at the quilt. The brown, lopsided rectangle on one corner was completely frayed around the edges. “This will never do,” Donna thought, as she pulled one of the threads, unleashing other strands from their delicate hold. “I’ll just cut this section off.” She retrieved the scissors from the kitchen drawer and, with one snip, easily removed the offending fabric.
The pink striped piece next to it had a stain. “Looks like this was dragged through the dirt!” Donna said aloud, as she snipped again. And so it continued, the snipping and shearing, so easy to do. After a while, Donna stopped using the scissors, as the fabric was so old and worn that she could easily rip the less-than-perfect swatches of cloth away with her bare hands.
After much cutting and tearing, a mound of multi-colored material lay at Donna’s feet. In her hands, she held the only piece worthy of being in her baby’s pristine nursery: the pure white satin centerpiece of the old quilt. “Now this is what I call perfection!” Donna said with satisfaction as she folded it and stepped into the nursery to place it inside the crib.
As she returned to the living room, she saw the pile of worn, mismatched rags on the white-carpeted floor. She felt a pang of guilt as she remembered Aunt Gussie asking her to take special care of the quilt, and the ease with which she had been able to dispose of anything around the margins.
With a deep breath and a sigh, Donna picked up the tattered cloths and thought to herself, “Oh well, old Aunt Gussie will probably never remember what she said or what happened to that old thing.”
And as she tossed each careworn, weathered, soiled patch into the garbage can, she dusted off her hands and said, “A place for everything, and everything in its place!”