When we were married fourteen years ago, my husband and I received a crocheted afghan from a good friend of my parents. I was amazed that anyone would spend so much time making a wedding gift, especially for a virtual stranger.
A few days later, with all our belongings wedged into a small car, my husband and I left for what would be our new home. Warming my legs against the December chill was the afghan. My hands caressed its soft texture as my mind ran circles wondering what this new married life would bring.
Our first home was a tiny motel room. We cooked our food in an electric pot and refrigerated it on the windowsill. The afghan added a much needed homey touch to the cinder-block room. Later we moved into an old home in the mountains. Unpacking, I neatly folded the afghan and placed it on a shelf. A few weeks later, as I pulled the afghan from the closet, a whole nest of baby mice came tumbling out. I don’t know if I cried over the mice or the holes in my afghan, but there were certainly tears shed. Since then the afghan’s place has been over the headboard of our bed.
That winter was very cold. My husband worked till one in the morning, we didn’t have a phone, and the wood stove barely kept the chill out of one room. I was expecting our first baby and didn’t feel well. I was even sometimes frightened by the night sounds. The afghan became a haven for me. Later, our baby daughter joined me, and both of us snuggled together under the warm afghan. Each following pregnancy meant more rest time under the afghan and one more little one with which to share it.
We have moved fifteen times over the last fourteen years. Each time I always pack one special box labeled “house to home.” Inside I put all the pictures and dear-to-my-heart treasures that I need to make my new home feel right. The afghan goes in first and cradles everything else as we travel. This is one of the first boxes we unpack.
The afghan has been there for us almost daily. So often it has seemed to be an extension of my mothering. I have tucked it in over a child who didn’t seem quite warm enough. We snuggled under it when traveling cross country to visit grandparents. It has survived family bouts of chicken pox, the flu, strep throat, and scarlet fever. It has gone to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, football games in the fall, and camping trips in the summer. Occasionally it tempts me into a quick nap before the kids come home from school or adds that little extra warmth needed on my side of the bed at night. When company comes to spend the night, it can keep two little ones warm on the floor or an adult on the sofa. It spent a week in the hospital, four days at camp, and a morning in kindergarten at show-and-tell. It has been fought over, turned into a tent, and used as a “giggling monster.” We have washed it, dried it, hung it on the line, soaked it in the tub, and even sprayed it off with the hose.
The toaster, mixer, casserole pans, and crystal pitcher we received for our wedding are all gone. While the afghan is no longer new, it still has a lot of warmth to share with us. Sometimes I wonder what we would have done without it.
Years ago I wondered why my parents’ friend would spend so much time making an afghan for a couple she barely knew. I realize now that, in her own gentle way, she was sharing the knowledge of nurturing and homemaking she had gained while raising her own family. Her gift helped me to make my home a safe haven from the storms of life, and I gradually learned that as we face life’s challenges, many things can make our house a home and bring us comfort: prayer, scripture reading, music, hugs, kind words, and even an afghan.