Friday, March 11, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Mankie

This week's assignment from Red Writing Hood is to write about something ugly and find the beauty in it. This piece is exactly 600 words--which is the limit. Constructive criticism is welcome.


I pull the Batman sheets off my son’s bed, careful not to include any of his stuffed animals in the laundry. The top bunk is cluttered with creatures from a traditional brown teddy bear to a fantastic green dragon with shiny wings. Amid the plush menagerie is a baby’s blanket. Years ago it was powder blue with soft shiny trim. Now it’s browning with age and gets a little crusty between washings. The satin binding has been repaired many times. My uneven zig zag stitches create small lumps here and there.
When Owen was small he didn’t want a pacifier and he didn’t suck his thumb. He never even took a bottle. For the first few months of his life I was the pacifier and I was getting very tired of that role. Upon hearing my complaints one day, my mother said, “He needs a blanket with a satin edge.”
I couldn’t imagine why that would help. Why would one particular kind of blanket work when every brand of pacifiers on the market had failed? But I was willing to try anything at that point. “We have one,” I told her. “There was a blue blanket like that in the gift basket they gave me at the office.”
She hunted around the nursery and found the blanket. She presented it to Owen as if it was the Holy Grail. He immediately took it in his arms with a smile and rubbed his face against the satin binding. From that moment, the only time he was without that blanket was when I pried it from his hands so I could wash it. My mother was right. He needed a blanket with a satin edge. Apparently, when you’ve raised four children and had ten grandchildren and sixteen nieces and nephews, you learn a thing or two about babies.
Owen squeezed and chewed the blanket as he fell asleep for years. He wore it as a superhero cape. It cured carsickness, nightmares, hurt feelings and insomnia. Owen didn’t use the pronoun “it” when talking about Mankie, he would say “he” or “she”. I forgot to pack Mankie on one vacation—Owen barely slept for five days.
A children’s librarian once heard me call Owen by name and suggested we check out the book Owen by Kevin Henkes. In the book, Owen is a mouse who has a favorite yellow blanket named Fuzzy who goes everywhere with him. A nosy neighbor named Mrs. Tweezers convince Owen’s parents that he’s too old for Fuzzy. They try dipping the edge of Fuzzy in vinegar and being stern but Owen does not want to let go of Fuzzy.
As I read the book to my Owen I could feel him getting tense and holding Mankie closer and closer. At the end of the book, Owen and his mother come up with the idea of cutting up Fuzzy and making handkerchiefs out of it. I should have read Owen The Shining by Stephen King. He would have been less disturbed.
We created some rules about Mankie as Owen got a little older, but I never tried to make him give it up. Mankie lives in the bedroom and can only come out to be washed or taken on long car rides. Mankie is threadbare and stained and smelly, but sometimes it comforts my growing boy. I was given many baby blankets when I was pregnant—quilts and hand knitted blankets and countless flannel swaddling blankets. And there was a beautiful blue blanket with satin trim. I didn’t know a blanket could do more than keep a child warm.