Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Love Like Dat

I'm about to tell you a secret.
It's not something I am ashamed of, although, I understand some people will have a reaction to it. A negative one. An incredulous one.

I still sleep with my baby blanket. You're damn right I do.
It's a quilt my grandma made me as a baby. For whatever reason I developed an intense bond with it, a bond I have yet to break. A bond I am not sure I'll ever break.
Before I could speak well, I called the blanket blankie dat, probably toddler speak for that blanket. My shorthand became Dat. There used to be a tag on the back that read that, but it fell off somewhere, I suppose in the last nearly three decades or so.

Dat and I, (both) age 10mo.

I have tried to banish Dat to the hope chest, I have. I know I bravely offered her up to my newborn baby brother when he arrived, but reneged on that once he developed his own blanket love.
I'm sure I tried when I went to kindergarten.
Probably when we moved when I was nine.
I'm sure as I became a teenager at 13.
At 16.
When I left for college.
I talked about it when I got married.
But I never pulled the trigger.
The Dad knew to not even ask anymore.

I just didn't want to. It wasn't and isn't a can't thing. I can let go. I just don't want to.
The night we brought the lil' dude home from the hospital, we swaddled her up tight, put her in her crib, and I went to bed, where my blanket was waiting for me. I immediately felt calmer, like somehow, I wasn't all grown up and a Mom and that would define me from now on. I felt like a piece of my childhood, my forever-me had remained and I felt better and a little bit safe.

My blanket is in precarious shape. I wash it alone in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle and hang it to dry.

About 10 years ago, I was sick of the quilt batting being so bunched up so I gently ripped it all out. I stuffed the gnarled contents into a padded envelope and mailed it to my grandma, explaining how Dat's soul was now in her hands. She sent me a sweet, heartfelt note in a sympathy card along with a $10 bill. I still have that card.

For my 21st birthday, grandma made me a new Dat, as she finally found the old pattern to embroider the same animals on and made a near-match. I couldn't bring myself to sleep with #2, though. It felt like a violation. The tag on its back says:

Lil' Dude's Mama
April 4, 2001
Dat II
Love, Grandma S.

The duplicate sits on my writing chair in the corner of our bedroom.

In high school, I accidentally left my blanket behind at the hotel during a basketball tournament. The hotel staff who located it and promised to ship it to me thought I was calling in a desperate panic on behalf of my child. I was 17. Details ...

Why I am even talking about this personal oddity?

Because up until two weeks ago, it appeared my daughter, the lil' dude, my own flesh and blood, did not have an affinity for any of her blankets. To say it kind of broke my heart is an understatement. And did she ever have blankets to choose from! 5 handmade quilts, 5 handmade afghans, a bazillion fleecy, minky, silky, bright, subdued, textured, colored, girly, boyish blankets. After weeks of observing her strange behavior and affection for our kitchen towels, one night the Dad simply handed the lil' dude her pink polka dot blanket with her name on it. And, I think there is something developing there. I was stunned.

And delighted.

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