Of Picnics and Red Plaid Blankets

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  Thursday, 8 September 2016


Every family should have a red plaid picnic blanket.

I remember when Lori gave me mine for Christmas, one year in the early 90s. Somewhere along the line I must have mentioned I’d like a flannel quilt, so she made one for me, in secret.

This was when Lori and Julie and I rented my sister Chris’s condo, after graduating from college. I don’t know how in the world she was able to make it without a sewing machine and a quilting frame, but make it the talented Lori did, carefully binding it with hand-sewn stitches all around the edge and white yarn ties.


I still remember, all these years later, I was so excited when I started to open up the big box that Christmas at our gift exchange before we each went home to our parents for Christmas: Lori to Idaho, Julie to Indiana, and me to New York.

Splitting open the tape, I caught a glimpse of red and plaid peeking out, and I knew right away what was in the box. I jumped for joy! (See below for proof.)


This blanket. The back is a very faded navy blue, from all the exposure to the sun, while riding around in the back of the car, like a patient child, just waiting for the perfect picnic spot. And trust me, it’s seen many of them.

This blanket. It’s been there in the car in case the kids get cold on those long rides in the wintertime. Is anything cozier than well-worn flannel when you’re in a darkened car and the snow is swirling around outside it, driving through a pitch-black canyon? I think not.

This blanket. Sometimes I’ve even brought it inside and snuggled under it on my bed, not caring it might have some grass or dirt or sand on it from our last excursion.

This blanket, it has a rip on the plaid side, a rather large one, and I have to figure out how to patch it before it gets worse…

This blanket is like my life, well-worn and faded and ripped from being used, lovingly. But I can figure out how to patch it, right? Just like I’ve patched up my own life when it’s been unexpectedly and undeservedly torn open…

There have been many mouthwatering meals eaten on this blanket, many long and heartfelt talks, many pleasant, drowsy naps under summer-shady trees. And many more to come. Thank you, Lori.

May I suggest if you know someone with a quilting frame and are handy like that, it would make the perfect wedding present? If it doesn’t match the newlyweds’ decor, it doesn’t even matter. It matches the green of grass and blue of skies, and it most certainly matches the golden-brown of crispy-fried chicken on Labor Day. And Memorial Day and the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day…



My mother made the cross stitch chickadee Christmas ornament. The red drum and white church ornaments came from a shop I used to frequent on my Christmas vacations in the late 80s. It was a great, cluttery gift shop called Pavane and was on lower Warren Street, in Hudson, New York.

If you look very, very closely, you can see the church and chickadee and drum on the tree in the candid photos of the Christmas I received the red plaid quilt…

My mother purchased my cobalt blue angels at Pavane. It was also at this shop I found my favorite, timeless black silk scarf which I wore to Les Miserables on Broadway this past July, and to countless weddings and funerals. I even wore it to church last Sunday…