The huge box in the foyer sparked curiosity and excitement as my daughters made their way in from school. Almost in unison they asked, “What’s in the box?” “It’s our legacy,” I replied as I pushed the box into the living room. I slit the tape and pulled back the flaps, reaching in to pull out an old down quilt. Unimpressed with a faded quilt, the girls went off to find a snack while I sat back and admired the contents.
The down quilt had been my grandmother’s and she had sewn the cabbage rose cover herself. It had endured countless moves with my 86-year-old mother and now, as she prepared to relocate near my sister, she asked if I would like it.
I was thrilled to take possession of the quilt that represented the warm shelter of my childhood. I’d spent countless hours nestled in its folds in my grandma’s bed when childhood fears disrupted my sleep. Grandma never seemed to mind my late night interruptions. She would pull back a corner of the quilt and I would crawl in. Grandma’s mattress had an indentation in the center from years of use and I would happily roll towards her softness and sleep deeply, cuddled next to her warmth.
Years later, when my mother moved to Florida, I would sometimes pass the quilt in her closet and I could smell a lingering scent of grandma. Just a whiff of that quilt brought me a sense of comfort. And so I couldn’t help but think about that scent as I pulled the quilt into my lap and buried my face deep into its folds to recapture my childhood. Surprisingly, there was no lingering scent of grandma in that spot so I moved on, sniffing around the entire quilt.
A few minutes later, I called my mother. When she heard my voice, she wanted to know if the box had arrived. I told her it had and I was very disappointed. “What’s the matter Robbie?” she asked. I told her I was sitting in the living room and I had smelled the entire thing and there was no longer any scent of grandma. She began to roar with laughter and couldn’t speak for a bit. Finally, when she regained control, she told me that was the funniest thing she’d heard in a long time.
My husband returned home from work and he too was interested in the box. I repeated the story about the missing scent but he didn’t laugh. “Don’t worry,” he told me. “When you need comfort in the future, you can wrap yourself in the quilt and you’ll feel your grandma’s love.”
I couldn’t have known how soon I would need that comfort. My mother moved to California and within six weeks, she became ill and died unexpectedly. In the weeks and months that followed, I would often think how, just weeks before her death, she lovingly packed up the down quilt in that large box. She drove by herself to the post office and mailed the box so I could have a special memory of my grandmother.
Many times over the years, when I’ve felt a need for comfort, I take the quilt down from my closet and wrap myself in it. After all, it’s my legacy.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Image: Flickr Creative Commons / geishaboy500