Sunday, August 9, 2015

Daily Sketches. #9 Blanket

Write about your favorite blanket – or about your least favorite blanket. What does it look like? Is it soft, scratchy, warm, new or old? Is it a gift, a find, a purchase? What do you use it for? If your blanket had a voice, what story would it tell?

My mom brought this blanket from my childhood when my parents first visited us in this state three years ago. It was a long time since we had seen each other. We always stayed connected via emails and phone, and later Skype, but for seven years we did not have opportunities either to visit Russia or to bring my parents here. First, we spent all our little savings to relocate to another corner of the country – it was not because of a job offer or anything like it, but our desire to find a place that would feel like home. Seattle, even though on the surface it was unexpected (I was thinking California), did it for us. Our first few years here were tough – we did not know anybody, the small business that we had did not do very well in the new location, and there were no available permanent jobs. By the time when, after a few years, we finally got on our feet financially, the idea of building a community put roots in my heart, and we both started working very hard on it, and of course, had to finance it too. It took a few years before we decided to invite my folks to stay with us for half a year, as I did seven years before that. My dad had a chance to save some money and pay for their tickets here, which helped a lot, of course – we at that point still were involved in the school we founded, paying a huge part of the monthly rent from our family budget, taking the full responsibility even during those three months when Justin was between jobs and we had to live off a very modest income. When I look back on those crazy years, constantly giving, giving in all senses of the word, I still am astonished how we even were able to pull it all together, how we were able to be not just founders, but exclusive providers for the whole community – something that governments often refuse to invest in, and even the communities themselves refuse to invest in. How was this little family, that had not been in a strong financial position, able to pull it all together and become patrons of a newly born school and community? And how, in those harsh years, were we able to turn back to our family in Russia and take care of this most precious connection to the people who made me who I am, and made possible whatever I do and have in life till this day – my beautiful, rare, exceptional parents.

Mom brought me a few things from home that remind me of my years growing up, living in a modest two bedroom apartment, where my brother and I grew up and went to school, where my grandma often would stay for a few months, usually in winter, where for years and years relatives or friends would stay when they were in a transitional period of their life, moving from place to place, divorcing, starting a new family, giving birth to their kids, getting them to college, etc., etc. Maybe that’s where my altruism and feeling a connection to people has its roots, in that small apartment where our family rarely spent time just by ourselves, constantly being involved in the lives of dozens of people… We used to have a couple of plaid wool blankets that we call in Russian just that – plaid (плед), one in green tones, and another one in orange and brown tones. Mom brought me the orange one which coincidentally suited the interior of our living room very well – I somehow collected many things in orange hues over the years that we have lived here. So this plaid wool blanket really looks like it belongs here, adding to the feeling that we have lived in this house for many, many years… It got stretched out on the edges, it shrunk from washing and drying (Russians wash pretty much everything by hand, I don’t think we ever used dry cleaners in my family). It is not especially soft wool, rather coarse really. And it keeps the warmth of many cold winters in Siberia – cold outside, warm inside. Mom would snooze under this blanket, cuddled on the sofa, in front of the TV – a habit that I inherited later. She would cover me with this blanket, on the top of my regular blanket, when I was chilled and did not feel well as a kid or teenager. It still holds the warmth and tenderness of those years and the connection between us. My living room is such a perfect place for this plaid blanket, where it provides endless opportunities to snuggle for both people and cats, being a bright accessory in our rather dark wood paneled room which faces north, and a beautiful contrast to the greenery outside the picture window. It always makes me think of my childhood home – the place which I left only when I got married. Unlike many kids who were eager to leave their parents’ home as they grew up, I wasn’t. And even when I had to rent an apartment in the city when my work required me to take night shifts, and there was no transportation that would take me back to my small town late at night, as soon as the night shifts were cancelled, I cancelled my apartment lease and came back to live with my parents where I always felt loved, accepted and welcomed, despite the fact, that, as my dad put it at the time, I left by myself, but came back with someone else. It wasn’t what you probably thought just now. I did not bring a grandchild to my folks after a few months living in a big city with all its temptations. That someone else was a little kitten which adopted me, as only cats can do, and who eventually became a beloved member of our family and lived with my parents for many long years after I already flew to America. And I would never guess as I started this exercise, that one little blanket would bring so many vivid memories and thoughts and connections to all the different people, cats and periods of my life. 


  1. What wondrous memories and feelings that blanket held, and was able to travel half a world away to reconnect once more. We seem to learn more and more about you as a writer and person in every post, a gift to us readers.

    1. Thank you, Sam! Opening up is hard, it's probably the hardest thing to do, especially after you've been hurt quite severely, but I won't become a true artist if I don't overcome this fear.

  2. Such a wonderful post Natalia. Your culture and upbringing sounds a lot like mine. Back home, everyone helped each other. There was always room in a relative's house for other members in transition. People will happily share everything without a second thought and we wash everything by hand :). Good to learn more about and from you dear Natalia. Enjoy the rest of your week. xo

  3. wonderful memories!!!
    i wish i had them too.....

  4. OK, if I HAD to pick a favorite blanket, it would probably be the blue one in this picture, which I picked up during a trip to Scotland. Nice to know that my favorite blanket and your favorite blanket get along so well. :)

  5. I think my favourite blanket is one with a tiger print...I don't know what happened to it or is it still in my parent's aparatment. My home was much like your own, there were already relatives staying in, visiting or sometimes even living with us temporary. When I was a kid, I would bring half of my class home to play. There were as many as 20 children running around our flat or jumping and screaming in my room. My parents were very tolerant and they never complained about the fuss:). When we would visit my grandmother, she behaved in the same way. My relatives and I would almost demolish the house, but she would just say, children need to play.

    One way or another, there were almost people staying with us. I grew up during a war so my father would sometimes bring people they would free from war camps to our home so they would have at least one meal before they head home. I remember poking my finger between some man's ribs once. He was so thin that he was almost a skeleton but he still had the heart to smile at me.

    It is really remarkable you were able to start a school yourself and finance it despite the fact you didn't have the means to do so. I imagine it must have been an epic wonder you look back and wonder how you were able to do it. Working hard doesn't always give results we hoped for, but it always gives us the ability to be proud of ourselves and that is priceless.

    Still, it is really difficult sometimes because the more we give, the more people expect from us. I used to be really active when it comes to volunteer work and I hope I can be again, but right now I really don't have the energy to do it.

  6. Blankets are full of love and memories, i wrote about one but this post reminds me of another I am sleeping under from childhood. Also a scratchy wool, but softest pink :-)
    Lovely writing Natasha xo Jazzy Jack