Every November, I take out my step ladder, climb to the top shelf of my linen closet and bring down my winter linens. I’ve been doing it for years. And even though it gets harder as I get older – my back aching, my balance uncertain, my arms and shoulders sore from reaching – I cannot imagine giving up this annual event.
I gently unfold the sheets, pillow cases, shams and duvet, smelling the faint scent of lavender from the sachet I tuck into them before I put them away in April. It’s an old tradition, one of the few things I learned from my grandmother. She filled her handmade, lace-trimmed and crocheted handkerchiefs with the purple dried flowers, placing them in drawers and closets everywhere. The aroma filled the room with subtle sweetness as she honored the change of seasons by changing the linens.
I love looking at the blue and white sets. Even more, I love the feel of them. Flannel. Not the scratchy kind you find in most stores today. These are soft, almost like fleece. Sleeping on them is pure pleasure! Warm enough for the coldest winter nights but light as a feather. Each set has a different pattern. Snowflakes, cornflowers, violets, lambs, and penguins. But my favorite is the cardinals. So beautiful and fluffy as a cotton ball!
My friends think I’m crazy – going to all this trouble. Risking a fall. Inviting my back to ache. Spending so much time… on sheets! They are probably right. And common sense tells me that the time is coming when I will no longer be able to do it. But my heart says “You Must.”
I love my small apartment. Cozy. Filled with things I have collected over the years. Pottery. Art. Quilts and textiles. And recently, my own photographs framed and hung on the walls. It is truly “Carole”. I have been a work in progress for so long. At last, I feel almost complete. Like a sculptor, chiseling his stone and watching the statue in his imagination come to life! And the older I get, the more I value what I have created – My Home.
I cling tenaciously to those things I cherish! I dust, polish, rearrange and create seasonal displays. Each item is a memory. Every task that has become a lifelong habit gives me pleasure. This year, it has also made me incredibly sad as I begin to come to terms with the fact that I will have to move soon – sooner than I thought. Someplace much smaller and less expensive. Easier to maintain. Disability friendly. And I will have to “downsize”.
I know! I know! They’re just things!!
Not really. They’re pieces of me. Who will I be when they are gone? What will happen to my sense of “Home”? I try to put the thought aside. Pretend it’s not necessary. Salvage more years. It’s as if Father Time swept his long, skinny arm across my treasures, scattering them like tiles of a puzzle I have almost finished laid out on my table.
I unfold my fluffy cardinal flannel sheets, shake them out and place them on the bed. They are even softer than I remembered. So pretty. Simple. Perfect for me.
I climb into bed, turn the light down low, and snuggle up in them.
I am Home.
Carole Leskin is a retired Director of Global Human Resources. Embarking on a second career as a writer and photographer concentrating on her personal accounts of aging, her essays and poetry, frequently accompanied by her photos, are published in Jewish Sacred Aging, Jewish Women of Words, Starts At 60, Navigating Aging ( a Kaiser Health publication), Women’s Older Wisdom, Time Goes By and Next Avenue. Her poems, “Father Time” and “Carole’s Debate” were selected for inclusion in the 2019 anthologies of poetry, New Jersey Bards. Her photos have been featured in Mart R Porter Nature Forum.