Column: Big old quilt wasn’t pretty, but it proved to be a lifesaver

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I grew up in a cold house. It was an old farmhouse that had been built before insulation was common. I slept in a room on the second floor, above the kitchen. There was an ancient oil-burning furnace in the basement. It croaked and groaned its life away and occasionally produced a little heat. This bit of warmth was supposed to find me at the other end of our house and magically appear for my comfort.

When the nights were cold as they tended to be during Minnesota winters, the warmth gave up its search for me much too easily. My room became like the inside of a refrigerator. The inside of the windows became frosty. When I needed a glimpse of the outside world, I would breathe on my iced bedroom window until a hole melted through. I learned that with every breath, there is hope. The Bible says, &uot;Do not be anxious about anything.&uot; It is good advice, but I worried about hypothermia.

I expect that I would have frozen to death at an early age had it not been for the life-saving quilt. The quilt was one made out of rags by my grandmother. It was a large quilt, long enough to cover my lengthy frame. I am half-English, half-Swedish, half-Welsh and half-German &045; that’s why I am so tall. Many children had a security blanket while they were growing up. I had a security quilt. The quilt was one of life’s shock absorbers. The quilt made my bed feel welcome on a cold night. The quilt not only enveloped me with warmth; it covered me with love. The quilt weighed about 327 pounds and was ugly as sin, but I didn’t care. My room may have been frigid, but I was as warm as a bug in a rug under that quilt. It was so nice under that quilt that I hated to vacate the position. When morning came, my rear end discovered a way to maintain a firm grip on the bedsheet.

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The quilt was a gift that gave so much. It was true that the weight caused me some problems. I needed help getting out from under it in the morning. A bumper jack would have been a great help in extricating me. I couldn’t imagine the hours that went into the creation of the quilt, but I knew the hours of warmth it brought me. It was much more than a quilt. It was love.

The weather radio

My wife, The Queen B, is a weather junkie. She has a Weather Channel on her back. I spend a lot of time on the road and I love to walk, so I spend a lot of time at the mercy of the elements. I probably do not pay as much attention to the weather forecasts as I should. First, I don’t have a lot of faith in the accuracy of such prognostications. Second, I figure that I always get the kind of weather that I deserve.

My wife, on the other hand, is unable to get enough weather. She looks at the weather reports in the newspaper the way she used to look at me. She looks at them the way she looks at chocolate. She listens to them on the radio and then checks them on the computer.

For one of those gift-giving occasions, I bought my wife a weather radio. It seemed like the perfect gift for a weather weenie. It was like giving heroin to a drug addict. The radio features a robotic voice that gives the current conditions and the forecasts over and over again. It also has an alarm that goes off in case of severe weather. The alarm is annoying and loud and wakes me almost as quickly as the sounds the cat makes right before it throws up. The Queen B loves the weather radio. It keeps her informed and she believes that an informed person is a survivor.

Whenever The Queen B hears that severe weather might be headed our way, she grabs my faithful canine companion, Towhee, and heads for the safety of their hidey-hole in a corner of the basement of our rural home. There they remain until the all clear signal is given. Where am I while The Queen B is in the basement teaching our dog how to pray? I am upstairs looking out the windows, of course. I can listen to the weather radio anytime. It’s not every day that a man gets to see real weather.

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.