Tears Into Blankets
waved goodbye to her parents as they drove away.
what will we do today?" she asked her grandmother, as they
walked with arms around each other into Omiís house. Ana was pleased
to have her grandmother to herself for twelve whole days while her
parents took a trip.
Annchen," Omi said, using the name Ana loved to hear, "I
think today I shall teach you to knit."
Iíve never seen you knit," Ana said.
I havenít much, since your mom grew up, but I was eight years old
like you when I first learned."
we start right this minute and can I knit something to keep?"
Ana asked, all in one breath.
laughed. "Of course! Let me see, how about a little blanket,
for your dolls?"
For my Emily doll! Sheíll love her own blanket. And then could we
make her a little dress too, to match?" Ana asked.
smiled. "Letís just see what you have time to finish before
your mama and dad come back for you."
watched while Omi reached deep into a closet and came out holding
the handle of a large, worn basket. Ana lifted the lid of the basket
and caught her breath. There were balls of yarn in every color.
She felt them one by one, a fuzzy blue, a pink with a shiny strand
of silver, a chunky green, a sunset reddish orange, and a silky
smooth purple. Then she held up one that looked like a fluffy snowball.
one. Iíd like white, for Christmas, Omi," Ana said, fingering
will be beautiful," Omi said.
did you make the first time you knitted, Omi?" Ana asked.
was quiet for so long that Ana looked up to see if she had heard
her. "I made a blanket,too," Omi finally answered, "but
mine wasnít for my doll."
was yours for?" Ana asked.
was for my mama and me, to wrap us up together."
Why did you need to wrap up with your mama?" Ana asked.
it is such a long story," Anaís grandmother said.
tell me, please. I want to know everything about it." Ana said.
always want to know everything, my Annchen," Omi said. "Come
on, let me show you how to knit. Then if we have time, I will tell
cast on a row of stitches and handed Ana the knitting needles. Then
she sat Ana on her lap and reached her arms around her to guide
Anaís hands and needles. Ana liked the feel of Omiís warm breath
on her neck and her ample chest against Anaís back. Ana held the
needles and watched them duck and loop and slide at Omiís direction,
clinking all the time.
doing it!" she exclaimed.
Anna stayed silent, concentrating hard, until she thought she had
the moves memorized and could do them by herself. She slid next
to her grandmother on the couch and knitted several stitches without
help. Then she set the needles down in her lap and turned to her
grandmother, "Now, Omi, now tell me about the blanket you knitted."
laughed. "Oh, all right, then."
already know I grew up in Germany, before I moved here, to America.
When I was eight years old, there was a war going on in my country.
We lived in Berlin. That is a big city. Many bombs dropped on our
city. I knew what to look for. We all did. A bomb starts out as
a dark speck in the sky. Then you hear a whistle that gets louder
and louder and turns into a whining as the bomb gets lower. If it
looks like itís not heading straight for you, you run anyway. Thatís
because they donít come down in a straight line.
day, one of the bombs landed in our back yard. We had just reached
the bottom of our cellar when we heard it hit. It left a crater
big enough for me to climb down into. That is when my mother loaded
me on a train and took me to my grandmotherís farm, far away from
Berlin where she hoped the bombs would not fall.
didnít stay with me. She didnít want to lose her job. Jobs and money
were hard to come by then, and my father hadnít been able to help
us for a long time. He didnít believe the war was right and had
been put in jail for speaking out against it. Then he was sent to
the battlefields. We hadnít heard from him in many months.
cried when Mama got on the train headed back to Berlin. My grandmotheróyou
were named after her, Annchenóheld me a long time until I stopped.
She took me home and gave me a bowl of cream to eat. "You are
so skinny, my dear," she whispered to me as she skimmed cream
floating at the top of the big milk can. During my stay with Grandmother,
she gave me cream many times even though it was forbidden. Each
day we were expected to milk Grandmotherís cows and place the cans
of milk outside the front door to be picked up by the army. They
knew how many cows we had and how much milk, with cream, should
be there every day. We were not to drink it ourselves. We were not
allowed to eat meat either. These precious things all went to feed
first days after my mother left, I cried often. I stood by the window
looking down the driveway hoping she had changed her mind and I
would see her walking toward us. Grandmother let me be. She didnít
try to shush my tears. She kept on doing her work, but she never
went far from where I was. Sheíd cook in the kitchen where she could
still see me by the window. She folded the laundry on the bed I
was lying on. When she had to go outside to tend the cows, she asked
me to carry a milk can to keep me near her. And at night, she had
me leave the spare bed empty and climb with her into her big featherbed.
think I had been there about five days when Grandmother and I finished
the last milking of the day, and it was beginning to get dark. We
walked from the barn back to the house and Grandmother said, "Put
on some long underwear under your clothes. We are going somewhere
see," she answered and went to the closet and pulled out a
thick, heavy wool blanket. She also handed me a knitted hat and
up in our warmest clothes and boots and carrying the blanket and
a basket that Grandmother took out of a cupboard at the last minute,
we went out to the barn to the horseís stall, next to where we milked
the cows. Snow covered the ground and the trees. I think it was
November, before Christmas, Annchen, like it is now.
bridled the horse and handed me the reins. Leading the horse, I
followed Grandmother to the back of the barn where she began dragging
a huge piece of canvas off the top of what I had thought was farm
machinery. I stared at the biggest, fanciest sleigh I had ever seen.
The seat was cushioned and covered in shiny black leather. The sides
of the sleigh swept up into high scrolls at the back. It was a sleigh
fit for Santa, Annchen!
harnessed the horse to the sleigh and then opened the back door
to the barn. We were going for a sleigh ride! Under the stars!
horse snorted and started us off quickly. I think he was as excited
to be out gliding through the night as I was. It was so cold we
could see our breaths. Grandmother tucked the thick blanket around
our laps and legs and wrapped my hands in it, too. The blades on
the sleigh made a steady swishing sound over the parts of the snow
that were packed. Through deeper spots we made hardly a sound. There
were no clouds in the sky and after a time I noticed a half moon
had come out to join the stars in lighting our way.
was too beautiful to even talk. We rode silently over country roads,
past other farms until after a good while we came to a long lane.
Grandmother pulled gently on the reins and made a clicking sound
with her tongue to signal the horse to turn.
horse brought us to a stop next to a dark little house.
here," Grandmother said.
took the basket and we climbed down from the sleigh. The door to
the house opened and a lady with her hair in a bun called to us.
come! Hurry in and get warm."
was cold by then and glad to follow Grandmother into the house and
into the living room. There were no lights on anywhere. There were
only small candles burning from sconces that hung on the walls.
That was how all houses were in the evenings. It was that way so
the planes that flew at night would not see the lights and know
where to drop their bombs.
living room was full of women. No men, only women. All the men,
except the very old, were gone, gone to fight in the war.
introduced me to her friends. Then she sat down on a chair and reached
into the basket she had brought from home and took out knitting
needles and a ball of yarn and a piece of knitting that looked like
the front of a sweater. I sat down on the floor next to her basket.
All the women had knitting on their laps. They talked and knitted,
and they sang. I remember their singing. It was like being in church.
a little while, Grandmother reached into her basket again and took
out another pair of needles and handed them to me.
a ball of yarn," she said. "I will teach you to knit.
It will help you. Like it helps us," she looked around the
thatís when I started my blanket, Annchen. I chose white, too, like
you have. I chose it because I wanted to make something to remind
me of the sleigh ride. Of course, by the time I finished it, I had
long since run out of white yarn and added many other colors, but
it started with white."
it help you to knit, Omi, like your grandmother said?" Ana
first, it just felt clumsy and hard, but every day I added more
rows. The blanket grew, and an amazing thing happened, Annchen.
I didnít think so much anymore about how I missed my mother. Instead,
I thought how surprised sheíd be to see my blanket and how big it
was. I just kept picturing Mama and me wrapped in it together."
long did you work on it?" Ana asked.
she came back." Omi answered. "She brought Father with
her. The war was over, and I was a year older."
happened to the blanket? Do you still have it?" Ana asked.
thought for a moment then rose from the couch and walked down to
the basement and into the cedar closet. Ana followed. Omi dug through
some boxes until she said, "Here, here it is."
pulled out a much worn, faded blanket with many snags. It looked
to Ana big enough to wrap ten people in.
is nearly sixty years old, Annchen," said Omi. "You may
have it if you want it."
thank you, Omi," breathed Ana, gathering the blanket to her
heart and laying a side of her face in it. "It is the most
beautiful blanket I have ever seen."
the next days, Ana worked hard on her doll blanket and sometimes
Omi knitted a row or two for her. She had almost completed it when
her parents called and said they were cutting their trip short and
would be back early to get her. War had broken out between Anaís
country and another.
television news, Ana and Omi watched American war planes drop bombs
on people in a far away land. They listened to the president explain
why the killing was just. He said there were people hiding in that
country who had killed Americans and they had to be found.
the bombs just hitting the bad people, Omi," Ana asked.
Annchen. It doesnít work that way," Omi answered.
you think there are children running from our bombs, like you did,
theyíre not our bombs--the presidentís and the countryís,
yes, but not yours and mine."
the children, are they running?"
think they are," Omi said, putting Ana on her lap and holding
how can it be right?" Ana wanted to understand.
donít think it is," Omi told her.
didnít you get to be president, Omi? You wouldnít let this happen."
Annchen, people who think like I do donít get to be president. But
it wonít always be this way. I believe there will come a time."
night, Ana climbed onto her bed and reached for Omiís blanket from
the bottom of the bed where she kept it. She spread the blanket
out and then wrapped herself into it, with the extra folds making
an island around her. She leaned against her pillows and thought
of Omi, the little girl in the dim, war-time living room with all
the women knitting and, for a moment, thought she could hear their
singing. The blanket held Anna as she waited for sleep to come,
wondering how many wars, and how many children learning to knit,
it would take before someone like Omi could be president.
(Curtis) Harward [send
her mail] wrote this story for her young daughters after September
11. She is a lawyer in Fort Collins, Colorado, and has a degree
in economics from George Mason University.
© 2002 LewRockwell.com
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