Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:51 AM
We didn't have much money when we first got married. Patrick was teaching school at first, then began law school at Columbia the next fall. Our financial situation was of great concern to Patrick's grandfather, who I'm sure imagined us scraping out a miserable existence in some little hovel on the edge of Harlem. Grandpa would send us packages of vitamins on a regular basis; he was very worried about my health, as well as that of his future great-grandchildren.

One day, a package from Grandpa arrived that was much larger than usual. We found inside not the usual bottles of pills, but a double bed-sized bedspread. Grandpa explained in the accompanying note that he was worried that we would not be warm enough at night in the winter to come. He'd seen this very warm and durable bedspread on sale and had thought of us at once.

(Little did Grandpa know that nearly every night of our 11 winters in Manhattan, we slept with the bedroom window open at least a crack. Energy-conscious officials should put addressing the chronically overzealous radiator heating systems of New York City's apartment buildings near the top of their lists when looking for ways to cut consumption and costs.)

Warm? Yes. Durable? Without a doubt. But also: the most hideous thing I had ever seen? Absolutely.

The bedspread is a denim grayish blue, one of my least favorite colors in the spectrum. It's spattered with little black and white and gray splotches, sort of Jackson Pollock-style, just not as cool. It's machine quilted with that transparent, stronger-than-the-cords-of-death nylon thread. And it's got thick black piping running all the way round the perimeter.

(Patrick would insert here that it's not that bad. He's not mistaken very often, but in this case? He's dead wrong.)

But we didn't have a bedspread, or really any substantial blanket-type bed covering, so we used it. I was grateful to have it, and don't worry: I thanked Grandpa profusely for it and his thoughtfulness on more than one occasion.

I thought we'd surely replace it after law school, one P was pulling in the big lawyer salary and we had our own bed out of storage once more (the married student housing in which we lived was furnished). But somehow in the years that followed, there were always other things we needed, and the bedspread hung around.

Once I tried to throw it out, but I discovered that my analytical husband has a bit of a sentimental streak. "It was a gift," he protested. "It was from the heart." I couldn't argue; I have hung onto plenty of stuff over the years purely because it reminds me of the giver. Then Grandpa died, and getting rid of the bedspread altogether was no longer an option.

For a long time, it lived in the linen closet and only emerged when we needed something to put on the futon when guests stayed over. Once we got the cat, though, it enjoyed both a second lease on life and a new name: The Kevlar.

Goldberry, like most cats, enjoys attacking things that move under cover--like bare, vulnerable feet, for example. Having a brain the size of a small bran muffin, Goldberry can't differentiate between feet moved in play and feet moved innocently in sleep at three o'clock in the morning. I don't think she bears us or our appendages any malice, but her claws are razor sharp, and she is very, very strong. Her midnight ambushes did little to foster bonds between owners and pet, to say the least.

I can't remember how we discovered that her claws couldn't penetrate Grandpa's gift, but once we did, the bedspread rarely left our bed. We could waggle our ankles and Goldberry could attack to her heart's content, with no one getting hurt in the process. I believe it was Patrick who, with the cat furiously biting and rabbit-footing the blanket surrounding his legs, cackled gleefully, "It's Kevlar, cat; knock yourself out."

I've contemplated recovering the Kevlar, making some sort of duvet cover for it out of fabric I actually like and wouldn't mind seeing on the bed. Doing so is low on my project list, though; it seems like I always have ten things more urgent to accomplish. Though I still find it hideous, it evokes fond memories every day when I make the bed, and it remains much-needed protection from nightly feline aggression. After nearly nineteen years, I've made my peace with the Kevlar.

We don't choose much about our lot in life; sometimes our circumstances seem unappealing indeed. But with time, we often find that those things we'd most like to change turn out to be the things that are most useful in difficult circumstances. Patience and faith can grant us a new perspective on even the ugliest of gifts, if we will only cultivate them.
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23 comments:

On 26/1/09 , Annette Lyon said...

This is great. We have several gifts I'd be happy to do without but that we can't get rid of because they were GIFTS.

Our cat likes to hunt toes at night too. We just close our door at night so she can't get it. Kevlar would do the trick!

 
On 26/1/09 , Josi said...

Isn't this how it goes? We get married with all these visions of perfect homes and furniture, and in time we realize that we mostly just want to keep our toes warm.

 
On 26/1/09 , Jenna Consolo said...

I'm cracking up because I've always wondered about your taste in that thing. But this post, well, this gives me much food for thought today. Thank you.

 
On 26/1/09 , Kimberly said...

Beautiful insight, Luisa!

I have a similar quilt in my life, but mine is uglier.

Oh yes. It is.

I may have to take pictures some day...

 
On 26/1/09 , PEZmama said...

What? No PICTURE? You're killing me.

 
On 26/1/09 , Heidi Ashworth said...

Goodness, I feel so unthrifty when I think of the many different bedspreads we have had in the same time period. Yikes! (this was so beautifully written--I think you should submit it to the annex).

 
On 26/1/09 , Eowyn said...

Wow! I have a couple of those--the ones that you would never in a million years pick out yourself, but super handy when an extra blanket is needed.

I'm glad Kevlar protects you!

And yes, making peace with life is one of the hardest things to do. Thanks for reminding me that it needs to happen.

 
On 26/1/09 , Melanie J said...

What a lovely closing thought. So true.

 
On 26/1/09 , Giggles and Grins said...

We need a picture!! You are such a gifted writer!! Thanks for giving me some things to ponder :)

 
On 27/1/09 , Goofball said...

a kevlar bedspray with an attacking cat. I can totally picture it :)

 
On 28/1/09 , NorahS said...

Beautiful post! Interesting lesson.

 
On 28/1/09 , Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I really loved this post, Luisa. So much sweetness and love.

Along with humor.

Great lessons here.

 
On 29/1/09 , charrette said...

I love every word of this. And the reflections in the closing paragraph? Priceless.

I think I need to make peace with a number of unappealing gifts in my life.

 
On 30/1/09 , Julie Wright said...

I love this! The Kevlar . . .hilarious . . .

 
On 30/1/09 , Bea said...

I love your Grandpa!

 
On 31/1/09 , painted maypole said...

that's a great story!

 
On 31/1/09 , Virtualsprite said...

What a sweet post. We have a similar bedspread - faded denim blue with grey and yellow plaid print - that was a gift from Nature Boy's dad and stepmom. It's hideous, but to us it's home.

 
On 2/2/09 , TC said...

But it's still an ugly cover. And I'd declaw that feline's front paws.

 
On 3/2/09 , rjlight said...

Great story! I love this post Luisa.

 
On 4/2/09 , Brillig said...

Um, hi. I love this post. You are so funny and so clever and so wonderful. And so insightful.

I'm now looking at all the hideous, HIDEOUS things I've been given over the years, wondering if maybe they have some wonderful purpose I'm yet to discover...

:-D

 
On 8/2/09 , KP&GVS3 said...

What a find on a leisurely morning! I'm still wiping away the tears of delightful laughter!! I didn't ever see that monster bedspread my father gave you, but believe me, if I had, I probably would have deposited it in the garbage, instead of at the post office. But I never had that option . . . As P's Grandmother would sing, while chortling, God Moves in Mysterious Ways, His Wonders to Perform . . .

 
On 8/2/09 , dawn said...

What a wonderful heart warming post. LOL at the brain the size of a small bran muffin. A beautiful conclusion to your post.

 
On 10/2/09 , Elizabeth said...

I love the story and the insight. Thanks for sharing it.