“It Keeps on Giving”

A Memoir by Rose Marie Dunphy

Some time ago I bought a new comforter for my bed — a blue cloverleaf design tinged with gold-green foliage against a red background. After years of sleeping under a down comforter tucked inside a white duvet, the new comforter, to my delight, woke up the room. It came reversible, too , in matching red, green, and gold stripes with two shams and a bedskirt.

I wasn’t wild about the stripes, and the material was somewhat heavy to handle, but the cloverleaves blended well with the blue area rugs around the bed and with the garden flowers of a Paris cafe painting I’d hung in the room.

Or so I thought.

My daughter Kathy was first to point it out. “It’s nice, but the blue — though close — doesn’t really match the rugs or the painting. And it’s so red,” she moaned.

But the red was precisely why I loved it. It was vibrant and visceral, especially when the sun kissed it through the window each morning, bringing in the glory of another day. I slept with it for six years, until the red began to fade. Then everything dulled. The cloverleaf design, the blue rugs, even the garden in the painting. I washed the comforter, hoping to restore its luster. In the dryer, it came out lumpy and even duller.

Reconciling myself to buying a new comforter, I invited Kathy to come with me to the mall. We brought home four huge bags, carrying one in each hand, and finally settled on one with a swirling aqua-blue background, reminding me of the panorama of ocean waves when entering Montauk. And it matched perfectly the bedroom rugs and the Paris cafe flowers.

The question remained: What to do with the old comforter? Like an old friend, I’d grown attached to it. I couldn’t throw it away. Though the cloverleaf side had faded, the striped side still looked young and new, as did the bedskirt and shams.

“You’ve always wanted red curtains for the kitchen window,” my daughter said. “These stripes would look stunning.” Kathy spoke with such conviction that I believed her instantly. Before we could cut two sections of material to match the window dimensions, we had to empty the comforter of its filling, which at times became airborne. The next day I began sewing.

When my daughter came to evaluate the new kitchen curtains, already up, she asked if I’d thrown out the rest of the material or the filling. “No,” I confessed. She smiled, knowing how I hate to get rid of what may still be usable.

“Make pillows for the kitchen chairs,” she said.

What a marvelous idea, I thought. Not only would they add color and life to the oak wood, but they’d also match the new curtains. When I was done, just the bedskirt and shams remained. I folded and stored them in a drawer.

Recently, I bought an area rug for the family room. It’s red with an oriental gold-green design. It brightens up the room just like the old comforter did my bedroom and the kitchen. But the fringed, beige pillows on the couch and love seat now seemed pale in comparison. Without thinking, I fetched the striped bedskirt of the old comforter and cut out eight panels to cover the four pillows. It took three hours to sew the panels separately by hand so as to keep the fringe exposed, but the time spent was well worth it. Every aspect of the room came alive.

The two shams and only small remnants of the comforter remained. Again, I folded what was left and saved it in the same drawer. Who knows what more the comforter can give?

 


Rose Marie Dunphy’s work has previously appeared in The Star as well as in Newsday, The New York Times, and other publications. The author of five books, she was the winner of the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize Judges’ Choice Award for Nonfiction in 2015.