NO ORDINARY BLANKET

He bought it at the Sav-On Drugstore for $4.97. It was an unassuming wool blanket — red tartan plaid with fringe onEach end. When new, it was starchy and its colors vivid; but after nearlyTwenty years of service, the colors were faded and so threadbare in placesYou could see right through it. I thought the blanket itchy and hot, butDad stubbornly defended its merits. “This is no ordinary blanket,” he would say. Commonly known as a stadium blanket, we called it our “car blanket”Because that’s where it resided between outings and vacations. It layFolded neatly in the back of our ’68 Chevy station wagon, ready and waitingTo be called into service. Most of its use came as a picnic blanket, aGroundcover over the rocks, sand, and pine needles of my childhood. My father’s blanket began its distinguished career shortly after heAnd my mother were married. They were driving along a wooded highway whenThey noticed smoke rising in the distance. What my parents assumed was aHarmless campfire turned out to be a smoldering brush fire threatening aNearby trailer home. With no one around and no time to spare, they foughtThe small fire – just Dad, Mom, and the car blanket. After that, it was aLittle worse for the wear, but Dad just said the discolorations gave theBlanket “character.” A few years later, Dad passed a blue sedan parked along the side of aCity street. A few seconds down the road he got the notion that somethingWasn’t quite right with the scene, and he turned around to have a closerLook. There, in the dim light of evening and within sight of the speedingCars, a woman was having a baby. Dad lent a helping hand, the use of hisBlanket, and a ride to the hospital. The couple was deeply grateful forThe unsolicited help of a stranger. For a while the blanket returned to its familiar role. We watchedFireworks on it, and drive-in movies. It protected my father’s backsideDuring an unexpected roadside tire-change. Once, when a spring trip to theBeach turned unseasonably chilly, I recall huddling beneath its protectionWith my sisters, grateful for Dad and his scratchy old blanket. Several years later, my father was the first one at the scene of aSerious accident. Instinctively, he stopped and approached the mangled carWhere a young woman was inside, trembling and bloody. He thought of hisOwn five daughters as he wrapped the blanket around her and comforted her.The warmth of the wool helped prevent shock from setting in and kept herCalm until the ambulance arrived. The car blanket ended its remarkable sojourn with our family one briskDecember morning. A homeless man, a “regular” outside Dad’s officeBuilding, asked him for some spare change. Almost as an afterthought, myFather went back to his car, got the blanket from its resting place, andPresented it to the man. The last time my father saw the red plaid blanketWas around his shoulders. My mom bought a new car blanket soon after that, but it just wasn’tThe same. It was blue and soft; it had no stickers or threadbare patches,No grease stains or singed edges. The old wool blanket had earned its place in our family mythology. ItWas, after all, no ordinary blanket.