One of the few positive things about moving is unearthing old treasured objects. The other night, we uncovered such an object: Ben's
"Mankie" was Ben's word for his blankie since he was a baby. We
like to think this name he bestowed upon his flannel companion was a clever
combination of "manly" and "blankie." The truth was
probably way less thoughtful.
Ben's "mankie" hasn't looked like a "blankie" in quite a
few years. Two thin shredded strips of blankie were all that
remained. But then last night we found a pile — a balled up wad of
"mankie" strands I had put away, so we would always have a few strands of Mankie around in a pinch. Ben was ecstatic and smooshed the shredded
wad of familiar softness against his face.
Mankie had been a gift from a baby shower — a shower for him and his twin
sister. I had gotten so many blankets for him at that baby shower. He was the first boy in our family, and everyone wanted to swathe him in
traditional manly coverlets that would safeguard his testosterone. The blankets were expensive — fluffy, silky or hand-knit by some relative or
woman in a foreign country. Every blanket a shade of blue with white
trim, white with blue trim, white and blue stripes, all inevitably blue and
white in some combination or another so as best celebrate the fact that my
child had a penis.
Mankie, however, was not blue and white, or fluffy, or silky, or even
hand-knit. Mankie was tan flannel with bright red trim stitched around
the edges. Best of all, Mankie was big. Bigger than the other
blankets and liquidy soft. The flannel was thin and malleable, perfect
for swaddling because of it’s generous size and seeming ability to mold completely
to her boy’s beefy proportions without asphyxiating him. The soft thin
flannel had a bit of natural friction that held the boy in without the tucking
and pinning necessary for other blankets.
Then slowly, piece by piece, strip by strip, Mankie disappeared.
And the end result was perfect: to me a stylish masculinity; to Ben, a soft, snug cocoon of security and
peace. His pliable armor against the strange and stimulating world
As Ben got bigger and could no longer be contained — certainly not with a
thin piece of flannel — Mankie became more of a companion. Mankie was a reminder to him of the security he had felt as a baby. Mankie was a reminder to me of
the security I could once so simply provide.
Then slowly, piece by piece, strip by strip, Mankie disappeared. A
bit in the wash, a bit every night as he chewed on it, until finally, only two
thin shreds remained. Two strips so precious he wouldn't sleep with them
in his hands for fear he'd lose them in his bed. He tucked them into a
special pocket in a stuffed whale for safe keeping. Never telling anyone
but me where to find them.
He twisted his blanket, and himself, into a curled up ball of contentment.
Last night, when I showed Ben the long-thought gone, balled-up wad of
Mankie strips I had found among the ambiguous boxes piled all around our new
home, he cheered. And I thought (though he wouldn't admit it), he got a
I put Mankie into his outstretched eager hands. Immediately, he began to
curl it around his fingers, savor the liquid softness moving along the webbing
of his man-cub hands. He twisted his blanket, and himself, into a curled up ball