Dear Train Blankie,
I’m guessing you didn’t see yourself in this position so soon. I’m sort of shocked myself, but I should have known better. From the first day his almost three year-old heart latched onto you, I knew this day would come. The first six months, I said it with a hopeful “eventually” sprinkled into the phrase. You had a childhood shelf life. A year in, I dropped the hopeful tone and knew you’d be shelved when he was ready. It would be a milestone that he’d reached on his own.
I don’t have to explain the dramatic term “milestone” to you. You know how much you are loved. In the beginning I created some rules for you. I could not have you with us all the time. I could not be running through the mall wondering where he dropped you. I would not have dinner with you: sitting near the table getting dirty. Keep it in the house. That was the main rule, but he had his own rules. You came to every house we slept at. Remember that one time we forgot you? He was so upset that my own heart broke. I was told you had soft spots. I laughed because you’re made of fleece. Your entire surface is soft! But he knew the exact soft spots. When I called his bluff, he showed me. Tossed you over and had me find it. I couldn’t. So I tested him. I looked at the spot he called soft and tossed you back. “Find it.” He did with a locomotive type speed and a surgeon’s accuracy. He chuckled at my doubt and inadequacies. You were cuddled when you desperatley needed a wash and were cuddled when you weren’t quite dry. You were so loved.
Recently, I noticed you left behind at bedtime. I tossed you in because I didn’t want him coming out to get you. It had always happened in the past and I hate when they get in and out of bed. A few times, I found you out of the bedroom after he had fallen asleep. I put you in your rightful place fearful he might need you in the middle of the night. But maybe I was projecting. He was starting to not need you. Mark forgot to tell me that they had a conversation about you last week. Mark said that he declared, “I don’t need Train Blankie any longer. Let’s fold him up and put him under the bed. If I need him, I can get him easily.” Ok. But I didn’t know, so I asked if the boys had their blankets for Grandma’s. “I’m not bringing Train Blankie. I don’t need him.” This stopped me while I was packing suitcases. Didn’t I just see him draping you over his bony shoulders? Weren’t you just in the hallway? And then in the living room? Maybe. Or maybe my feet were frustratingly kicking you out of my way. But you were just on his shoulders though. And it was shocking because I hadn’t seen as much of you lately. Perhaps it was the last good-bye.
And the final blow happened during our drive home from Grandmas. Out of the blue, he said “I don’t need Train Blankie. Fold him up and put him in the Baby boxes in the basement.” The words punched me in the gut. With the final bits of air I had left, I squeezed out an “Ok.” I folded you and put you on the table ready for the trip downstairs. But I moved you to the living room chair. And then to the office. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put you downstairs.
I’m not overly mushy about my kids’ milestones, but this felt different. It was so final. Cut so quickly. He moved on. You and I have the same fate to a degree. Every single day, he needs me less. And one day, I won’t be the one he runs to looking for comfort. Yes, that’s the point of a parent: to create self-reliance. I remind myself of this on a regular basis. My job is to let him go. And one day my job, as I know it, will be done. You did your job. And you did it really well. Thank you, Train Blankie. One day when he towers over me, he’ll run through the house grabbing stuff to get to the next place, I’ll think about him running to get you when his steps were short and clumsy. And maybe one day when I’m moving the Christmas ornament box, I’ll see you in the box of his “Save-Worthy” clothes. I’ll open the box and bury my wrinkled face in your soft spots. I’ll inhale the smell of comfort. And you can do your job one more time.
Until we meet again,
p.s. I’m neurotically sitting here wondering if the new plastic smell of the box I just put you in will mask you current smell. You have no idea how I want to skip work, drive home three hours, and move you.