Sarah’s Blanket


I was seventeen years old when I met Sarah, a petite, spunky girl with a big smile and hair cut in a Chelsea, dancing at a punk show.  We became instant friends, not typical for me, an introvert with loner tendencies, but a testament to the force that was Sarah.  We quickly became talk on the phone three times a day friends, discussing boys, clothes, and her Crohn’s disease.  Sarah was sick, she was actually very sick.  Though at seventeen I didn’t really understand that.  And I think that was a good thing for both of us.  So while there were punk shows, and house parties, much of our time together was spent at the Egleston Children’s hospital in Atlanta.  I’d squeeze into the hospital bed next to her and we’d watch t.v. and talk and laugh.  “Scratch my legs,” she’d request, and I’d comply.  We were best friends.

I would drive to the hospital every day when I could.  It was actually easier to see her there because it was halfway between her house and mine, and we lived over an hour apart.  Eventually I moved even farther away to go to college in Athens, but I still made those trips to the hospital in Atlanta.  I would do my best to encourage her when she was feeling horrible, and we made big plans for the future.  We dreamed about being roommates once she was well enough, taking classes together at college.  We were full of hope.

While Sarah battled her illness, I battled my own demons.  Drugs, alcohol, and a general failure to love myself.  But Sarah loved me and she wasn’t afraid to use “tough love.”  I remember the night at a party when she told me point blank, if you don’t stop this, I don’t know that I can bear to continue to see you.  I was less than a hundred pounds at the time, a skeletal 5′ 6″.  I pulled my act together to some extent, and Sarah never followed through with her threat.

One day I got the idea that I should crochet Sarah a blanket.  Something she could carry with her to and from the hospital, something to always remind her that she was loved.  I’ve always slept hugging a blanket (and still do, much to the amusement of my husband).  A security blanket, a “blankie.”  My first was a blanket crocheted by my mom’s best friend Caroline, in yellow, green, and white.  It lasted through my sixth year or so before it either disintegrated or was snuck away in the night by my parents.  I have mixed memories of its actual demise, fact mingling with I’m sure some fiction.

Sarah’s blanket was created from a bin of acrylic scraps that my stepmom, an avid crocheter, had given me.  I declared it her blanket of many colors, and worked row after row of what I think were double crochets.  Nothing fancy.  That blanket simultaneously became both my masterpiece, and possibly the most unattractive object I have ever made.  No one ever told me that it was ugly, Sarah certainly didn’t.  I’m not sure that I even realized it at the time.  It was my labor of love.

The weekend of Sarah’s funeral I slept on the floor of her bedroom surrounded by her out of town relatives.  I hugged her blanket and sobbed.  That was over eighteen years ago, and to write this, to remember her and what it felt like to lose her, the tears still come quickly.  I felt lost without my friend.

In the weeks after Sarah died I changed my life dramatically, making a near 180.  There was no returning to the life I lived before.  It helped that I met Jonny during that time, and we were married about six months later.  Of course that’s another story, one that is still playing out today.

My understanding of friendship, death, and love has changed and deepened over the years.  I’ve experienced a good amount of all.  And while her death left me feeling terribly alone all those years ago, I am fully confident that Sarah has been with me all along.  I know that she is smiling through the veil at her little namesake, along with all the other dear ones whose names our Mae shares.
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(Sarah and me in 1997)

Her Name

Mabel-8906

Today is our first day on our own since Mabel was born.  Jonny’s sister and our niece were here through end of last week, and my mom and stepdad were here from late last week till yesterday.  Friends are bringing meals, and we are being well taken care of.  We feel very loved and it has been great having family with us.

And, don’t worry!  I didn’t participate in the garlic harvest.  I merely gave instructions and took a few photos.  C-section recovery is so different, in some ways harder, but in some ways easier (and from what I have taken away from my friends who have had them, recovery can be wildly different from individual to individual).  I have been instructed to be up walking around a bit, to listen to my body, and rest as needed.  I am much more able to be up walking than I have been after previous births, especially my last, but my body definitely  knows when it’s time to sit back down.  I’m doing really well, and haven’t required pain medication beyond prescription Motrin.  And I promise, promise that I am not over-doing it and don’t intend to.  Because mostly, I just want to look at this baby!  I have pulled out most of my kids’ newborn pictures and my own, and determined that Mabel doesn’t look like me at all, or like Beatrix and Larkspur.  Maybe a bit like Seth.  Right now she mostly looks like a mini Jonny to me.  A friend commented that she has his hairline.  He answered, “Is hers receding?”   Right now her eyes are a cloudy dark blue, but I am holding on to the hope that she will have my green eyes.  She definitely wins the most laid back baby ever award, and she did not inherit that from me.  Even her body language says that she is just not too worried about anything.  She stretches and sprawls, and I realize it is too early for smiles, but she’s been smiling from day one.  I’ve never seen anything like it in a newborn of mine.  She smiles and smiles and smiles.  She’s the most darling baby ever.  I love her so much and am still in the “can’t believe she’s here” stage.

But her name!  I want to tell you all about her name.  So in our family, I typically name the boys and Jonny names the girls, at least he chooses what name the girls will go by.  He’s had Mabel picked out for a long time.  Beatrix was almost named Mabel, but he ultimately decided against it.  I think he chose well.  Beatrix is definitely a Beatrix, and Mabel is a Mabel, amiable and easygoing.  Mabel is a family name, Jonny’s paternal grandmother’s.  He has many fond memories of his Louisiana MawMaw.  As for her nickname, “Mae,” that is a family name too!  Jonny’s maternal grandmother’s name was Gracie Mae.  So he was able to name this little one after both of his grandmother’s with one name.

When we found out that we were having a girl, I knew immediately that I wanted to give her the name Sarah.  Many of you know of my friend Sarah Harkins, who died unexpectedly two years ago, next month.  What you probably don’t know is that my best friend in my late teen years was also named Sarah.  She died when I was 20, and she was just 22.  (I’m going to tell you more about her later this week.)  My friend Elizabeth Dehority passed away on Holy Thursday in 2015 after bravely battling breast cancer for years.  And it is also for her that we named our Sarah Mabel Elizabeth.  I very much wanted to honor these friends who were, and still are, so dear to me.  And you know what else? I have a sister named Sarah Elizabeth!  So, I think we’ve got meaningful and special pretty well covered with our little one’s name.  While we will probably mostly call her “Mae” (we are fans one syllable names or nicknames), her name is ultimately bound up tightly with so many people whom we love and that feels just right.