Sunday, September 30, 2007

Death and Christmas

When I was a child, my father spent the months leading up to every Christmas making grave blankets to sell so we could make ends meet. We lived just down the street from the town's cemetery, and my dad was a good friend with the caretaker. Local families bought the grave blankets so they could cover the graves of their dead relatives with flowers and pine needles to bring them warmth for the coming winter. I am not sure I understand this custom fully, or where it originated. It is not available on Wikipedia.
I vividly remember going to some local mom & pop store to buy Styrofoam, fresh pine branches, pinecones, fake flowers, and other supplies to make the grave blankets. My mother spent hours making giant pink, red and white bows that would be the best part of the creation. I always helped Dad place the branches in the Styrofoam rectangles. Sometimes I helped arrange the flowers. I loved helping my dad with these symbolic creations. On occasion he let me make the whole thing...well, the small ones for child graves. I never thought too much at the time that what I created was to cover the grave of a small, dead child.
As a finishing touch my father sprayed the thing (except for the bow) with either smelly gold or silver metallic spray paint, or sometimes, a fake white snow. I was not allowed to stay in the cold basement for this part of the process. The fumes were a little bit too much.
I am not sure why we stopped making grave blankets, for certain. It was either because we moved to a different state, or because of a tragic death in our own family. My memories around the time of the death of my nephew fail me. All I know is there was one Christmas season before we moved and we may have made them. If we did, then I am sure that I made one for Jeff to keep him warm that Christmas.
This may be a Christmas holiday tale, but I think it will always be better suited to tell at Halloween.

So, I plan to create a digital piece of one of these grave blankets to go along with this story...And, by the way this is a true story.


A Blanket for Warmth by =peggymintun on deviantART

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