The sheet must be at least 60 years old – probably bought in the early years of my parents’ marriage before my mother’s fancy turned to coloured sheets and patterns.
This sheet is plain white, made of thick, heavy cotton, worn soft by endless washings in the old wash boiler, hung to dry in the Welsh sun on the line between the apple trees, then aired on the rack above the Aga.
Because my mother always believed in keeping anything that might be useful, it came to our house in a huge bag of linen after she died. Some of the sheets I used, others I gave away. Some I cut up into tea towels, some I turned into Hallowe’en ghosts. This sheet just stayed in the bag at the back of the wardrobe, still immaculately folded by my mother, goodness knows how many years before.
Then our first grand-daughter arrived. Her parents brought a travel cot for when she stayed with us, complete with cheerful sunshine yellow cot sheet. But the baby never settled. She was a restless baby anyway but the travel cot seemed hopless.
Until one day I took the old cotton sheet, folded it in four, and tucked it into the travel cot.
Maybe it was the thickness of it after the slippery polycotton yellow, maybe it was the snugness, the softness. Maybe even it was the memory of Welsh sunshine and a great grandmother she never knew. Either way, the baby slept soundly.
Much relief all round.
The trick worked for her little sister too. Then this week it was the turn of our grandson Fred, nine months old and a hurricane force of robust energy and restlessness after his parents had moved out of their flat before going to America.
He wasn’t a great fan of strange cots but hurtled into this one and instantly crashed out every time. “Mmmm….” said my son, wonderingly.
And that’s why Great-granny’s magic sheet is going to America tomorrow. In a swish apartment in a swish part of Washington, Fred willbe sleeping on a 60 year old sheet.
My mother would have been thrilled to bits.