The blankies in this photo were once well-loved by my daughters. Today, as I see my newborn grandson swaddled in a blanket with a design of eyeglass-wearing bears all over it, I wonder if it will be the one that becomes his favorite blankie. I know that his daddy, my son Riles, will go to extremes to make sure he always has it. Former blankie-toting kids have this inherent understanding about the importance of blankies, as revealed in this timeless story I wrote in 2002.
I groggily answer the late night phone call.
“Mommy,” my eight-year-old daughter whispers from four houses away where she is spending the night.
“Mommy, I forgot my blankie.”
I suggest that her friend will let her borrow one.
“No, mommy, she doesn’t have anything I can fall asleep with,” she says softly, but urgently, “I need my angel blankie…”
Oh, yes. The blankie. That piece of frayed cloth Emmali carries to bed each night. It was originally part of a nursery set my mother had made, with glorious pastel and pink and blue angels soaring across flannel skies. Now, the faded seraphim barely cling to the cotton backing, yet Emmali still loves pressing the flannel against her cherub cheeks and twisting its lacy border between her fingers.
Before she started first grade, I began easing the threadbare blanket from her grasp. She reluctantly allowed me to put it up for “safekeeping,” with her older brothers’ blankets. We laughed as we discovered that Riles’ farm blankie and Austin’s Noah blankie were just as well-loved and tattered as hers.
The three blankets remained tucked away in the top of the linen closet, out of sight, but never completely out of mind. Then, in a day of spring cleaning, every towel, sheet, pillowcase and blanket was pulled from the closet. Emmali spied a corner of her blankie in the pile and quickly rescued it, drawing it close to her face.
Each night since then, she has nestled with her blankie. Except on this night when she phones at nearly 11 p.m., begging me to bring it to her. And, no, she cannot make it through just one night without it.
A recovering blankie-toting child myself, I understand her desperation. I plod down the stairs in search of my shoes. My 13-year-old son Riles meets me in the family room. “Where you going, Mom?
When I tell him, he offers to take the blanket to her for me. Of course. Karma. Ten years ago we almost missed a flight because, halfway to the airport, Riles cried out that we’d forgotten his blankie. We raced home, grabbed it off his bed and then dashed back to the airport.
On this late night, Riles gets on his bike, flinging Emmali’s blankie over his shoulder. He zooms down the street as I watch the blanket lift off his back like Superman’s cape. When he returns, I ask if he saw his sister.
“Yeah,” my hero says nonchalantly, “she was waiting at the door.”
Before returning to bed, I stop by the baby’s room to listen to the reassuring rhythm of her breathing. Dreamily, Gracie tugs at her blanket as if trying to catch the pastel pink, purple and blue butterflies that flutter across it.
The metamorphosis from blanket to blankie has begun.
A version of this essay was published in 2002 in Dallas Child Magazine.