When Aaron was born, we had a plethora of wooly-soft baby blankets. Some solid, some plaid, some with frogs and trains on them, and all of them toasty warm. I LOVED his baby blankets. He was never partial to any blanket as an infant. But then he turned a year old, and I vamoosed the baby bottle and the pacifier in one fell swoop. My mother-in-law called me cruel, and others may agree. But I saw it as a way to oust two potential crutches before he was verbose enough to complain about them being gone. So that was my rule with both kids… Celebrate the First Birthday, Toss the Binkie and Bottle, Move On to Toddlerdom.

It was at the Toss the Binkie and Bottle moment that Aaron, without complaining about what was missing, latched onto what was still available… a sweet little woven blanket which happened to be in the exact pattern theme of his nursery – John Lennon’s Imagine Collection. (I recall being about 4 months pregnant, standing in Burlington’s Baby Depot and pulling the butt-string of a blue musical JL elephant. It played a music-box version of Imagine, and as I imagined this unborn baby of mine “cheering all the world,” I started to cry right there in the store. Any question of my pending nursery theme was instantly settled. Now that you’ve been dragged down my Memory Lane, back to Aaron and the blanket…)

Aaron decided that this woven softie was his new security device. In his adorable one-year-old voice, he would call it “Bebbit,” clutch it with those precious tiny-boy hands, and take off. He toted that blanket everywhere! If we ever left Bebbit behind, the ensuing panic was so dramatic that I ended up purchasing two more identical blankets to keep at the grandmas’ houses. So, all total we had three completely interchangeable blankets. One was just as good as the other two, and all three were far superior to any other scrap of material ever offered. As Aaron grew and began to start preschool, it was going to be a challenge to leave Blanket behind for a whole school day. Blanket got to travel to school for naptimes, and it would come home with us at the end of the week for washing. (Remember, we still had two others on hand.) You may be curious as to my capitalization of the word Blanket. Well, one day when he was 4, Aaron was naming all members of the family – “Aaron Mainiero, Mommy Mainiero, Daddy Mainiero, Victoria Mainiero” – and then announced there was a fifth member. I looked at him quizzically, and he cheerfully exclaimed, “Blanket Mainiero!!”

As with all childhood treasures, the years were not particularly kind to Blanket Mainiero. Faded, stringy, and suffering several rips, one of the three Blankets ended up with the nickname of Holy Moley, and was relegated to staying at Grandmama’s house for emergency purposes only. By the time Aaron was in Kindergarten, Blanket was an after-school buddy. By the time two more years had passed, Blanket was a night-time and weekend morning buddy. Blanket still hangs out with Aaron at night, but today something happened that made me choke back tears. Blanket has been riding around this summer in a duffle-bag of sorts, along with all the books and video games that the kids think they need at Grandmama’s house. Today, as we prepared to go visit my parents, Aaron was sifting through the bag. I saw him toss Blanket onto the kitchen table and stuff something into his pocket as he headed to the door. For some reason, this struck me. Out of sheer habitual compassion for Blanket, I asked, “Aaron, do you have everything you need?”

“Yes ma’am. I got my iPod and my wallet. I’m good.” And with that he slipped out the door.

My watery eyes rested on the crumpled pile of fabric on our table as through my mind floated all the times we rushed back in from the garage to grab Blanket, or worse yet, backtracked five city blocks because we were that far away from home when he realized Blanket had been left behind. We’ve travelled everywhere with Blanket for nearly a solid decade. I thought of all the times my baby boy tucked that soft fabric up under his arm, letting the tail of it drag the floor behind him. And I thought of how fast my precious son is growing up, and how proud I am for all the things that he knows and understands and feels. It took me a moment to regain my composure. I sucked it up and joined the kids in the car. But be assured, I cannot type this without crying. Such are the moments that take my breath away.

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