A warm blanket offers warm wishes at the author’s home. (Photo by Peggy McKee Barnhill)

A warm blanket offers warm wishes at the author’s home. (Photo by Peggy McKee Barnhill)

Gimme a Smile: Have blanket, will travel

Like Linus in the “Peanuts” comic strip I love my blanket. I don’t suck my thumb anymore and I don’t let it drag on the ground, but other than that Linus and I are soulmates.

My living room décor features a large basket next to the couch piled high with throw blankets ready for snuggling under while watching TV. Every person in the house has their favorite cozy blanket, thanks to one memorable Christmas Eve.

I used to make the kids new jammies for Christmas every year. I would brave the 6 a.m. Black Friday sales at the fabric store to stock up on flannel at 50% off. Then I would have just about a month to sew three pairs of jammies. I would spend the season of Advent hunched over the sewing machine, frantically stitching into the wee hours in the weeks leading up to the big night. I should have saved myself the hassle and followed in the footsteps of Mary, who simply wrapped baby Jesus in swaddling cloths without feeling the need to make him a cute flannel onesie for his birthday.

The jammies had to be finished by Christmas Eve so the kids could open them as Christmas Eve gifts and wear their new jammies to bed that night. Truth be told, sometimes the kids would go to bed with unhemmed pant legs, but it was a sweet tradition. When the kids got too old for new jammies on Christmas Eve, I bought them each a fuzzy throw blanket instead. All I had to do was go to the store, pick out a few nice blankets, and hand over my credit card. No frantic sewing involved. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? I got blankets for myself and my husband as well, so the whole family was cozy that Christmas. My special blanket is a cheery red, with the words, “Joy,” “Love,” “Hope” and “Peace” scattered across it. Even the words on my blankie are cozy.

Cozy blankets made such great gifts for the family that I wanted to send some to all of my relatives down south. That’s when I realized that there might be a cultural divide between myself here in Alaska and my siblings in Michigan and Florida. Is it a thing to huddle under a warm blanket to watch TV in Florida? I don’t remember a big basket of throw blankets next to the couch in my living room growing up in St. Petersburg. We used to lounge on the floor, our bare toes stretched up to touch the TV screen and annoy our siblings. No blanket necessary. Since I wasn’t prepared to make jammies for my siblings, they had to be satisfied with boxes of chocolate and other sweets instead.

I take my blanket on vacation with me. “Have blanket, will travel.” If I get stuck overnight in the Seattle airport, it’s nice to have something cozy to lie down on that might remind me of my nice, warm bed. Picture me, well past my backpacking days, curled up on the floor because I don’t want to face airport security for a seven-hour overnight layover. Not a pretty sight! Good thing I brought my blankie. When I finally board my connecting flight, it might be cold on the plane. I can just pull out my trusty blanket, taking care not to encroach on the territorial space of the person sitting next to me. I’m not interested in going viral over an airplane altercation, thank you very much. If I’m staying in a VRBO in Florida that doesn’t have a basket of throw blankets next to the couch in the living room, I’ve got my own blanket to snuggle under while watching TV. Cozy!

Even now, as I compose this essay, I’m sitting at my dining room table with a heavy woven blanket on my lap and a soft fuzzy one snuggled around my shoulders. I don’t understand how writers manage to get any work done in coffee shops. Maybe they bring their blankies with them? I’ll have to give that a try.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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