“Mom, where’s my purple blanket?”
* * *
Two hours earlier I had brought Penny’s ratty purple blanket down to the laundry room to wash the stink out of it for the millionth time. I filled the machine with detergent, loaded the other clothes, then held up the old chenille blanket with my fingertips. If you could even call it a blanket anymore. The weave had come undone and it was full of gapping holes my toddler could fit her limbs through. I had re-hemed it more than once but it was a losing battle and I had been thinking of throwing it out for months now. Today was trash day…
The maintenance man was at the apartment complex today and should be emptying the laundry room trash in just a few minutes. The blanket had been Penny’s constant companion since birth but it was just plain nasty now. It needed to be done. She’d probably never notice when it didn’t come up with the clean laundry. I dropped the blanket in the garbage can, feeling immensely relieved to have finally done the deed.
* * *
I opened her bedroom door and looked down at her. “I need my purple blanket,” she repeated. I hadn’t planned how to handle this. I knelt down next to her and looked at her silently, thinking of a easy way to break the news. “Your purple blanket is ruined,” I said.
I watched with amazement as Penny’s face disappeared into her lower lip. Her eyes widened then welled with tears. She didn’t make a sound but began quivering, overwhelmed with emotion. I had never seen her this distraught before. I held out my arms for a hug and she stumbled to me, gasping in shock. She put her arms around my neck and held tight, shaking. I hadn’t expected a reaction like this and felt terrible. After all, the blanket wasn’t doing any harm by being ratty. It was a huge part of Penny’s life and traveled with her on all her adventures and playdates. She’d had it since birth and its simple presence had always calmed and soothed her for nap time or car trips. What had I done?
I pushed back from Penny. The tears were streaming down her face now and grief was still shaking her body. “Maybe I can find it…” I said. She nodded her head and was finally able to choke out a sob. I jumped up and rushed for the apartment door. Surely I was too late.
I had trashed the blanket almost two hours ago. The maintenance man would have cleaned the laundry room by now. What had I done? I ran into the laundry room and over to the trash can.
There, under a heap of dryer lint and an empty detergent bottle, was the purple blanket. For the first time, I was grateful for our maintenance man’s bad habit of neglecting to clean our laundry room. I grabbed the blanket, gave it a good shake to get the lint off and rushed back upstairs to my grief-stricken child.
“Penny! I found it!!” I shouted.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Penny. She took the blanket gently and climbed back into her bed, pressing her face into the threadbare chenille. Still letting out occasional sobs, she closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep.
As I closed her bedroom door, I knew I’d never be able to throw the blanket out again. I have looked for a replacement but had been unable to find the exact blanket. This one would have to last. I’ll have it plasticized. I’ll have it bronzed. I’ll do whatever it takes, this blanket is here to stay. Penny’s fragile emotional health, and consequently mine, depend on it.