Before I became a mom, I did not know how divinely powerful a big rectangle of flannel could be. Now, I have seen the light. Without Blankie, life would not be worth living – for all of us, not just the Diva.
Blankie is what your average pediatrician likes to call a “transitional object,” a totemic device that small children (from the ages of 6-30 months) use to ease the pangs of insecurity that stem from growing up in a big, wide world. Some kids adopt specific stuffed animals, others clean cloth diapers or washcloths. A friend of mine was attached to an old queen-sized quilt and family photos show her dragging that huge, grubby thing around with her at all times. Kids always surprise you.
Like Ford Prefect and his towel, the Diva has her Blankie, a three-foot- by-28-inch-ish wad of yellow flannel covered in bears and backed by an equally sized white wad of flannel. The edges are serged together, which forms a nice decorated edge out of white thread. I’m still at a loss as to how this particular blanket came to be the Blankie, but the heart just has ways that the head can’t understand. She also has a separate lowercase-b blankie for use when she’s at day care, a dainty pink Martha Stewart receiving blanket scrounged from a bottom drawer when we moved. Until the switch was made, I lived in mortal terror of forgetting Blankie one place or the other. All in all, the switch was fairly painless. Lowercase-b blankie lives in her cubbie at school and never comes home unless it has been seriously stained. Lowercase-b blankie can only work its magic within her school’s four walls. Everywhere else, only the Blankie will do.
The Diva's response to Blankie is almost Pavlovian. Now, approaching three, all it takes is the sight of this flannel wonder to make her put her thumb in her mouth and drop her eyes to half-mast. Blankie is better than Xanax and liquor, when it comes to calming the rampaging toddler. Which isn’t to say that it’s foolproof. When she’s really wound up, no mere fabric can turn the tide of her wrath. But, most of the time, a little Blankie loving is all it takes to regain the mellow.
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After two-plus years of near constant affection from your average destructive toddler, Blankie is starting to come undone with an extreme case of compassion fatigue. The corners are gray from constantly being chewed (yes, she chews on Blankie and will sometimes spend a good five minutes flipping the thing around to find just the right corner to gnaw at like a deranged beaver). The constant travel with Blankie – I think it has seen most of the East Coast at this point – hasn’t been kind, either. Our most recent trip into Manhattan saw Blankie being dragged out of the side of the stroller, through the city’s rainiest streets and around the assembled grime of Times Square. By the time we returned to our wee little Catskills town via train and automobile, Blankie could have walked itself to the washer... and she still was chewing on its corners, to which we all have to say “Eeeewwwww.”
I’m resigned to the fact that my whites will never be white and that a little dirt is good for the immune system. The real problem is that Blankie is starting to come, literally, apart at the seams. The white thread that keep the two pieces of flannel together is unraveling quickly. Some mornings, the Diva will present us with an enormous pile of white thread, which she pulled off while she was waking up. One of our cats – the evil one who has been known to eat plastic without ill effects – managed to consume a smallish ball of Blankie thread. We’re still waiting to see how that will come out in the end. It’s really a matter of time, however, before Blankie requires serious repair. My secret hope is that the Diva could make do with just one layer of the flannel and we can save the other as a back-up. (So far, Blankie hasn’t ever been permanently misplaced, but the times that the big B has gone missing have been full of tears and much gnashing of teeth).
Anne Lamott tells a story about mentally challenged kids who learn to navigate a big open space by holding onto ropes strung through the room. Every few weeks, researchers would make the ropes a little thinner, until they were nothing but thread. By the end of a few months, the kids could navigate by just holding on to small pieces of the thread, which was no longer attached to anything. Part of me is tempted to slowly reduce Blankie’s size, inch by inch, until it is no more than a postage stamp of comfort. But it seems too cruel somehow, to slowly chip away at her tangible sense of security. My secret hope is that she’ll grow out of it before Blankie comes completely apart. This is unlikely, I know, but a gal can dream. I don’t know that we ever really grow out of a need for a Blankie anyway. It’s just that it starts to be socially prohibitive to drag one around with you once you’re old enough to get your own breakfast. Lately, I’ve been thinking that that is just too damn bad, especially when I read the newspaper or hear about the latest casualties or Social Security plans. I wish I had my own Blankie to curl up with. I’ve asked the Diva to share a corner of hers, but she refuses in a way that makes it clear that it is a non-negotiable no. Blankie is her transitional object, thank you very much, and its juju might wear off if it is passed around.
I suppose we all have our Blankies. I have a fondness for
flannel pajamas. There is little more comforting then curling up in a
nice warm bed in flannel pjs on a cold winter’s night. I had a college
buddy who still had her old Blankie, now no more than some satin edging
and a ratty strip of fabric, and she’d snuggle with it when the need
arose. But even her response wasn’t the same, despite the comforts of
the ol’ Blankie. As adults, we just can’t achieve that same level of
surrender, of pure belief that this one object can make all of the
things in the world OK. We know it won’t be, not really. There isn’t
magic in the Blankie anymore. And while some flannel jammies can ease
the sting, there are still so many things beyond the transitional
object’s control that it’s hard to give in to their warmth.
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