Fall surrendered, snow fell, and Ruth’s mother bought a blanket for her daughter’s seventeenth Christmas. It wasn’t a very expensive or spectacular blanket; it was extraordinary only in the fact that it hadn’t been picked mindlessly from a Christmas list but had instead been chosen lovingly and thoughtfully. She knew her daughter was forever chilly and would love the blanket’s fleece side, and she laughed to see that it had snaps just like the blanket she herself had spent her evenings cocooned in when she was Ruth’s age. So she wrapped the blanket more beautifully than the other gifts and set it gently under the tree.
The sun stretched, adults yawned, and Ruth opened her mother’s gift on Christmas morning. At the sight of the blanket, her grandmother’s eyes welled with memories of Ruth’s mother, looking almost identical to how Ruth looked now, wrapped up in her own blanket with the snaps. Ruth admired the gentle color of the blanket’s slick side and stroked the fleece side against her check before setting it on top of the rest of her gifts. She thanked her mother enthusiastically (she’d always been acutely aware of her reaction to gifts in front of their givers) and laughed good-naturedly at her grandmother’s hovering tears before hugging them down her face.
Naked trees shivered, frost iced the landscape, and at her mother’s suggestion Ruth spent the winter with the blanket layered beneath her covers. She nestled beneath it every night, but felt guilty when she couldn’t love it any more than anything else she had in her room, and she never snapped it around herself as her mother had done. She’d tried to wear it like that the day she was given the blanket, but it had made her feel uncomfortable and constrained. So instead she slept with the blanket spread flat beneath her sheets through that winter and into the spring.
Spring sprung, flowers bloomed and Ruth bounced for a moment on her toes before diving headfirst into his eyes. The weeks passed for her not in hours and days but in giggles and kisses, and she was surprised when her usually analytical, suspicious mind released her heart and allowed it to love recklessly and entirely. Making her bed one giddy morning, Ruth stroked the soft, fleece side of her blanket and then the slick, smooth side, and she thought of sweet picnics and stargazing from quiet hilltops. She folded the blanket and kept it in her car in preparation for any such spontaneity.
The moon beamed loudly, prom streamers fluttered, and Ruth danced with him wildly. Her classmates all felt just as immortal, and everyone laughed and spun and anticipated together. When they finally left the dance, Ruth’s body was still coursing with the night’s excitement, intoxicated with young love and the bright eternity that stretched before her. He brought her to a small hilltop where she spread the slick side of the blanket against the grass, and the two lay trembling there beneath the stars. Finally, he wrapped his mouth and his heart and his body around hers, and her innocence leaked slowly onto the fleece.
The moon slid drunkenly behind the hills, birds began to wake, and Ruth flew home on her own audacity, leading the dawn behind her. In the dim light, she noticed the garbage can her father had brought to the curb the night before, and she decided to spare her mother the pain of discovering the once soft fleece now stained with rebellion. Quietly, she lifted the lid and dropped the blanket inside. Its snaps scraped loudly against the can for an instant, but then the morning quickly swallowed the noise. By the time the lid banged back down, Ruth was rushing back to the house, her blanket already forgotten.