My boys are blankie kids. Zachary has a Taggie, a one-square-foot home base that he no longer brings to school but leaves in the car to await his return after a day apart. I never suggested he stop bringing Taggie to school; I liked to think of it there in his cubby, never touched but backing him up as he negotiated the vagaries of preschool. But, one day he decided that Taggie would remain in the car, and it has since become a companion for select down times during the day.
Benjamin, being only two, is considerably less discriminating about his giraffe blankie. It goes everywhere, but mostly in his mouth. He manages to stuff about a third of that thing down his throat, which leaves his hands free for more important activities like pushing other children in the play yard and wrecking havoc on the teachers’ organizational system. He sucks it with the passion of a pacifier kids who just never had a pacifier. That’s OK; giraffie serves the purpose just fine.
We wash it every night, but it’s still soggy, bacteria-laden, and generally disgusting. No one wants to touch giraffie, and Zachary actually recoils whenever it comes within two feet of him.
Our children think their blankies are their true loves, but J and I have a secret: Taggie and giraffie are arranged marriages. That’s right, we chose our children’s lovies. Rather than leaving it to chance and ending up with a one-of-a-kind blanket knitted out of cashmere by dear old cousin Martha, we fixed our kids up with commercial blankies that we could buy multiple copies of to rotate in. When they were newborns, every time I nursed my children, I gave them their lovies. Within a few months, the bond had been formed, and we made sure to buy several spares.
So, I was unsurprised when Zachary told me that the gift he wanted to get his baby sister was a blankie. He wanted one like his brother’s giraffie, only a different animal. We went to the store and he chose a pink bunny blankie, spending his whole allowance of a quarter to bring home the special friend. He waited anxiously for her birth so he could initiate her into the rites of the Temple of Lovies.
Benjamin, on the other hand, had a slightly different way of showing his sister how happy he was with her arrival. Visiting us at the hospital, he brought giraffie along in his mouth. Somehow, he managed not to set off alarms at the entrance with that thing, and it made it all the way up to our hospital room. Along with all the visitors, he sanitized his hands upon arrival so he could touch the baby.
He perched on the edge of my lap while I fed Lilah, tentatively touching her cheek. Then, looking about for an offering to show her just how special she was to him, he reached out his hand and offered her his wet, germy giraffie. All the adults in the room recoiled as he reverently offered his newborn sister the source of all staph infections.
“There’s not enough Purell in the world,” our friend sighed.