We want our babies to be comfortable, feel secure, be warm, and cozy. That’s why as soon as we give birth, our little ones are swaddled tight and placed against our chest. That immediate connection is the start of our relationship with our children in the outside world. We find comfort in those connections. When life gets tough, we run home to our mothers or the people in our lives we find security in. And it all comes back to where we started, nestled against our mothers’ chests with a blanket snuggled tightly around us.
Blankets have been a big part of our family story. As a child, my sister and I were both given blankets that traveled with us wherever we went. Hers was white and mine yellow. Over decades of use, those blankets were washed, spilled on, dragged across floors, and into cars. They definitely saw their wear and tear and no longer do they have the satin binding on them… well until my mother-in-law sewed new satin on mine when Michael and I first got married. Yes, I still sleep with my baby blanket and so does my sister. Although, I’m pretty sure hers is now in pieces. I can recall visiting Mary Kemple in her dorm room many years ago, immediately noticing that her baby blanket had a perfect circle cut out of it. And when she explained that she put it over her bedside lamp because it was too bright after a Saturday night frat party, it sounded perfectly reasonable to my highschool self. But why the hole? Oh yeah, it caught on fire after hours of sitting on the light bulb.
Yes, blankets have been in our family from the start. Mine has been with me through all of my travels, to every major event in my life and continuedinto the birth of our children. We have a whole bin of baby blankets in our storage rooms… the ones we used the first 6 months of each child’s life. They were pooped, peed and puked upon, washed and thrown back into the rotation. It’s the ones that each of our children cried for at night and had to be taken everywhere that became their security blanket or as we affectionately call them, “Night Night.”
Our children’s Night, Nights are a part of their comfort and security when they are at home and away. They sleep with them, wear them as capes, sit on them, and use them as props for imaginary play. Washing their Night Nights has and continues to be a struggle. They always want it when they don’t have it and they can never find it when they need it. The cycle is vicious. And if we were to leave one in a hotel, restaurant or lord knows where you better believe we would drive to the ends of the earth to find it.
Charlie’s Night Night is baby blue with blue satin binding. It’s the perfect mixture of cozy and silky and he would snuggle it to his face each night. We realized early on, that Night Night was important but we didn’t understand the ramifications until we thought we lost it. After searching frantically for it one afternoon, Michael was sweaty and I was in tears – yes tears (hormones suck!). You would have thought we lost the Hope Diamond with the way we tore up our house, ransacked the car, and called all the grandparents and friends who could have had it. We did in fact find the “night night”. And after recovering, we got smart. I wasn’t about to lose it over a blanket again (side note: I have lost it over a blanket many more times since then) so we searched the brand and ordered a backup blanket. The last one we could find in existence. Crisis averted… at least I thought. The new blanket arrived and I took it to have it monogrammed, just like the original one. Yet when I picked it up, the font was wrong! Of course, Michael, the voice of reason as I am crying again explained, “Honey, I’m pretty sure our 8-month-old isn’t going to know the difference between Times New Roman and Helica.” He made a good point. But you get mine too… Night Nights are a big deal in our family.
For each of our children, their night was unique in color, brand, and weight. But they all came from the same friend, my roommate, and college friend who carried me through the heartaches of relationships, my first years of teaching, and was with me the night I met Michael. Each time we had a baby, I would phone her asking if she thought she would keep her winning streak. And all three times she did.
I have fond memories of Charlie carrying his Night, Night around the house, snuggling with it on the couch, and peeking in on him sleeping with it, one last time before I headed to bed. I would watch the cadence of his chest rise and fall and in those peaceful moments, I was both happy and thankful. This beautiful boy was ours, such a treasure.
After Charlie died, we had to make unthinkable decisions, each one seemed to be harder than the next. One of those was deciding if we wanted anything to rest with Charlie. We put a few of his precious legos with him, a Star Wars figure, and some small trinkets. But when we contemplated his Night Night I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. All those years, the snuggles and the love on that blanket was covered with Charlie’s scent. I needed that reminder, his smell to be with me. I needed to feel security and connection, just the same as I hoped he felt those precious moments after he was born. I needed to know even though he wasn’t with me physically, he was very much still there.
Now I carry with me two blankets, one mine and the other Charlie’s. I sleep with both of them at night and each comes with me whenever I travel. When I lay down at night, I think of Charlie, snuggled up with the blanket nestled next to him. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t put his extra “night night” with him when he died. But in recent weeks, I think the answer has become clear.
Ellie has started wanting to snuggle with Charlie’s blanket. I find her holding it sometimes, watching TV, or snuggling with it on my bed. She hasn’t said much about it and I haven’t pried. But what she has said is “sometimes I like to snuggle with Charlie’s blanket. It’s cozy and warm and makes me think of him.” One day she might ask to keep his blanket or maybe Causby will want to sleep with one too. And that will be ok. When we got smart 8 years ago and got that back up Night Night, never would I have imagined having two would serve such a purpose. We always hoped Night Night would bring Charlie comfort and security, but now it has become a piece of connection to him, for us.
We all miss Charlie so much, Michael, Ellie, and I. And truly, I believe Causby feels something missing too as she points to his pictures around the house and calls Charlie’s name. His blanket is a reminder of him, the security of his presence even in his absence. It gives me comfort and a feeling of connection, knowing one day I hold him close, nestled against me, in Heaven once again.