An honest take on life and parenthood

How I ended up joining a cult

on October 22, 2012

Two summers ago, I unwittingly became the member of a cult. The Pooh was a member first, and she recruited me when she was just 18 months old. She pulled me in so subtly and so gradually that I did not realize what was happening.

The members of this cult are everywhere, and they are not defined by age, race, or ethnicity. There is no way to identify cult members unless you drop key phrases or ask the right questions.

Members of the cult worship an unfeeling idol. Cult members will do anything to keep physical proximity to the idol at all times, at any cost.

I refer to the Cult of the Blankie.

Do not laugh. This is serious business, people. And if you are also a member of this cult, you know exactly what I mean.

When the Pooh turned 18 months old, she suddenly developed a penchant for cuddling and sleeping with her flannel receiving blankets. One became her favorite, and she called it her “buh buh.” It was one of her first words, and she still calls it her “buh buh” to this day, even though she now speaks in full paragraphs and sometimes criticizes my cooking.

The Pooh is completely dependent on her blankie. She needs it to fall sleep. She needs it for comfort after she is frightened or chastised. She needs it to stay warm. She needs it to wipe her face. She needs it to wrap up her baby doll. She needs it to stand on the edge of the beach and survey the sea while on vacation. It is all-purpose. But the bottom line is that she needs it with her at all times.

The possibilities for a good blankie are endless

The Pooh’s  blankie is a simple receiving blanket made of cotton flannel. It was originally about twenty four by twenty inches. It was light green with small polka dots of green, brown, and white.

Today, this blanket is incredibly soft and threadbare, and as transparent as a veil. The border stitching is gone, so it is tattered all along the edges. The colors have faded to a shade similar to that of a chewed piece of Juicy Fruit gum. It smells sweet and warm like the Pooh, having absorbed the oils from her skin and her fragrant baby sweat over a long period of time. She sniffs the edges and throws it over her face to drift off to sleep.  The blankie becomes smaller every few months, as it begins to tear and I surreptitiously cut off the dangling strip before the Pooh notices.

Friends and family see this tattered rag – for it looks exactly like an old rag – and shake their heads, in disgust or bemusement, I’m not sure which.

One friend is convinced that one day, it will simply disintegrate upon touch.

I am so afraid it he is right that I only handwash her blankie now. Washing is a major undertaking, and is only done when the blankie is so grey with grime and so ripe that it absolutely must be washed.

At first, the Pooh would collapse into heartbreaking fits of screaming and crying when I would pry it out of her chubby hands to be washed. Now that she is a big girl of two and a half, she informs me when it doesn’t smell good anymore and needs to be cleaned. She stands on a stool and helps me wash it tenderly in the bathroom sink. She patiently waits for it to dry on the drying rack, which takes only an hour to air dry given how threadbare it is.

When her blankie is misplaced or temporarily forgotten, everything stops as I search for it. I have driven fifteen minutes down the road, only to turn around and go home when I realize it has been left behind.

And don’t even talk to me about the times it has gone missing.  The wailing and gnashing of tiny teeth was an experience I do not care to repeat.

For example, there was the time it got left behind at the self-serve checkout at Wegman’s grocery store. Another time, it went missing for three entire days and I swear I aged a decade off my life for every day it was gone.  Once, it spent twelve hours inside her closed pink potty while I turned the house upside down searching for it and she forgot where she had hidden it.  I pay my colorist good money to get rid of the grey hair that pops out on my head every time we misplace the thing.

Breathing in its sweet, comforting smell

This rectangle of fabric runs my life and the Pooh’s. Does she have it? Do I have it? If I cannot see it, where is it? Do I need to return home to retrieve it? And so on.

Fortunately, other members of the Cult of the Blankie have helped me locate it on numerous occasions. They recognize the look of panic on my face and the look of utter despair on the Pooh’s. As I begin to ask panicked questions, a look of understanding and (and sometimes childlike innocence) crosses their faces as they reminisce about their own blankie of long ago, or their child’s.

I live in mortal fear that she will lose it somewhere and we will never find it again, and I will have to pay for her therapy for the next two decades to deal with her feelings of loss and betrayal at the hands of her mother. And homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover irreplaceable items like this.

Fortunately, an insurance policy came along last week.

Last Friday, we went to see her godmother, Diane, also known as Auntie Didi. Auntie Didi noted the rapidly deterioration of the state of the Pooh’s blankie, and came up with a plan to stave off its disintegration. We ran it by the Pooh and obtained her approval, and away we went to execute.

First, we took the Pooh to JoAnn Fabrics and let her choose a new piece of flannel with a kitty print. We returned to the house, where her godmother carefully sewed a piece of the new flannel onto the original blankie to reinforce it as a backing. Auntie Didi told the Pooh that it was a new dress for her blankie, and the Pooh was absolutely thrilled. Success!

The Pooh’s buh-buh has a new dress, and she is happy about it

So while this is not an insurance policy against losing the blankie, it does provide insurance for its continued existence for at least another year.

At least this cult doesn’t demand tithing.

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