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Ode to Big Ducks

When I was born, my mom made me a 2-sided flannel blanket that I lovingly referred to as Woobie as I was growing up… and all through college… and after I was married. My NEED for the blanket diminished with time but it was still nice to have around. I used it as a blindfold when my room wasn’t dark enough. I kept it in a drawer beside my bed in case I was sad one night and needed an old friend. Woobie was always there for me until the last few shreds of fabric had disintegrated and there was nothing left to grab onto.

Years later, a mother myself, I was going through the hardest period of my adult life when I called my mom one day crying and asked her to make me a new Woobie. She made it and FedExed it and I received it with the next day’s mail. It was so comforting to me and now when I go away overnight, I leave it with Dan so he won’t get lonely.

Well, I’m not the only one to receive one or two of these flannel blankies from my mama. She’s also made one for each of the grandkids. They work great as swaddlers when they’re young but as Laylee got older, the blanket’s appeal for her waned. Magoo is a different story all together.

He is emotionally and often physically attached to the blankie known around our house as “Big Ducks.” When it first became apparent how much he loved his ducky blanket, my mom took the remaining duck fabric scrap and made him a smaller version as a backup. Once there were two, he had to differentiate. Big Ducks and Little Ducks were christened.

It’s strange to watch the way he behaves with the blankie. He doesn’t just want it. He appears to NEED it. Just this morning he asked me to pause the movie he was watching because he’d forgotten he needed Big Ducks and wanted to run and get it without missing any of the movie.

He doesn’t just cuddle with it. He EXPERIENCES it. Magoo rubs the blanket in between his fingers and brushes it against his face. His favorite feature of the blanket is its scent. I can’t always detect a scent on the blanket but he always can. When he’s getting sleepy, he holds Big Ducks up to his face right under his nose and breathes in long calming breaths, his lips fluttering in and out with some distant sense memory of nursing. It’s really quite fascinating.

He will toss and turn in his bed at nap time but I know sleep is just a few moments away once he starts to inhale his Big Ducks. The other day we were taking a long drive with his 4-year-old cousin when he started zoning out and sucking back the flannel fumes. He paused mid-inhale and turned his sleepy face to his cousin. “Hey Beanie, do you wanna smell my Big Ducks?” he said holding it out to her. She politely declined.

But Dan never declines. He’s always willing to smell Big Ducks and revel in its awesomeness with Magoo. That’s what good dads do, play catch and smell their kids’ blankets on demand. I think that’s why for Dan’s birthday this year, the only thing Magoo wanted to get him was his very own Big Ducks. When I told him I didn’t think Dad needed a blankie, Magoo insisted, “But he doesn’t even have his own Big Ducks! He needs one.”

Not wanting to squelch his tender, thoughtful gift-giving instinct, I acquiesced and the day of Dan’s birthday was spent making him a Curious George flannel blankie, very similar to Magoo’s beloved Ducks. Dan made a huge fuss out of it and it was cute to watch them sitting on our bed together trading inhales and rubbing the blankies on each others’ faces with huge grins and mutual sighs of contentment.

Magoo turns 4 this summer and it occurs to me to wonder how long is too long for him to hold on so tightly to a comfort object. Then I remember the FedEx package I requested just a couple of years ago and I decide it’s none of my business.

Are you or your kids attached to anything with such a passionate fervor? If so, I’d love to hear what it is. Don’t say chocolate because, well, I think that one’s too universal to really be relevant.

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