Miri wrote about her teenage daughter’s obsession with her cellphone. It’s inspired me to share my two-year-old daughter’s obsession with her security blanket. Her banks. Her blankie. As in, “Where is Blankie?”
First, let me give you a little history. Above is a photo of me and my blanket–my mankie–when I was about Elke’s age. I remember how the fabric felt between my index finger and thumb as I rubbed my cuticle over it, methodically scratching my skin against the thin grain. During a sleepover at my grandmother’s apartment one night when I was about five, the blanket disappeared. We scoured the place, but nothing.
My parents tried to console me with other blankets, but it was that blanket that kept me safe from the perils of the outside world, and quite possibly the perils inside my house (my parents were having their own marital problems). No other blanket was ever right. Too itchy, not soft enough, not pretty enough – until finally, I gave up the notion of having a favorite blanket altogether. Say the word mankie to me today and I still remember it — outside of my love for my parents — as the single object of affection from my childhood.
Years later, I was in a college writing class. The assignment was to craft an essay about an unresolved issue. I chose a tactile subject: the disappearance of my blanket. I was to interview subjects as well as draw from my own memory, so I called my father first. He and I were finding our way out of an argumentative relationship that had dominated my teenage years, and my interest in writing was an easy topic for us.
I told him about the assignment, and then asked him about the blanket, which, of course, he remembered. “I know I lost it,” I said, “but tell me what you remember.”
“That blanket,” he said. “I was cleaning out your grandmother’s closet after she died—“ he said, pausing, “I found it, or at least what was left of it, behind some boxes of shoes. Your grandmother took it without us knowing. I’m sorry I never told you, honey.”
It would help to explain that things were shaky between my father and his mother for years. She was hypercritical, with other characteristics that my father might not want me to share on this blog. Finding my blanket in her closet was a clear indication of her lack of confidence in him as a parent. Her message was loud and clear: You can’t get a measly blanket away from your five-year-old daughter? Here’s how it’s done. In my father’s discovery, my grandmother not only managed to piss him off one last time in death, but possibly worse, hurt me in the process.
I am 100 percent sure my grandmother didn’t take the blanket out of malice. She obviously prescribed to an old school stigma that children shouldn’t carry blankets. She died when I was six from colon cancer and I have memories of her that are mostly represented by my developing senses: her skin’s soft, orangey wrinkled appearance; the smell of brisket cooking in her apartment; her holding me up in front of a mirror, the two of us reflecting back at each other. I tried to see her for who she was: a Polish immigrant who grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan as thousands of other immigrants did in the 1920s. Life was about choices and consequences and rules that must be followed.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t angry. I was amused and pleased, actually. So that’s where my blanket went! Yet my relief was paired with contradiction. I felt sorry for my father and for the dismay he must have experienced when he found my blanket collecting dust in the back of his mother’s closet. And just as I remembered the blanket when we spoke that afternoon, he remembered the difficulty in consoling me once it was gone.
Funny. Sometimes I rub my thumb and finger across Elke’s blanket the way I used to with mine. But it’s not really the same comforting feeling because the fabric, I know, would never be the same.
(All photos of Elke were beautified by Instagram)