Malina Sarah Savall
...its quite another to be thirteen, becoming
a bat-mitzvah, shopping for training bras, getting your period
and still having a security blanket.
parents named me Linus. Well, they almost did. They named me Malina.
Thats "M" plus "A" plus "Lina",
the feminine form of the second declension Latin noun Linus. In any
case, my parents should have named me Linus, because like that lovable
Peanuts cartoon character, my baby blanket a.k.a "Woobie"
is forever in tow. I take it with me wherever I goto bed, on vacation,
to the beach if I want to take a nap. But unlike the fictional Linus,
who is forever etched in colorful comic book infancy, I do not have
youth on my side.
I am twenty-nine years-old and I still have a baby blanket.
Rewind. I am two months old. Like most middle-class newborns, I was
showered with the essentialsdiapers, bunny sleepers, an assortment
of useless albeit adorable and flame resistant Dakin stuffed animals.
And a blanket. A simple, pale-yellow, cotton, waffle-print throw with
satin piping around the edges. Perfectly functional and snuggly all
at the same time. Probably from Carters or Child World or the
linen department at Bed & Bath. On the surface nothing that special.
Yes, there were others. There was the hand-knit crotched quilt with
my name in flourishing baby pink cursive from Great Aunt Gladys who
would die years later from a brain tumor. And the blue and white gingham
plaid comforter monogrammed with my initialsMSSfrom Great
Aunt Gertie who, too, would pass away from cancer.
But it was Woobie who stuck. Blame it on my parents reluctance
to take the other blankets out of their protective plastic wrappingwhat
mother wants drool on something that took an entire nine months to knit?but
it was Woobie to whom I immediately took a liking. It was Woobie who
would later stay with me through the long, unmanageable years, suffer
with me through the failed relationships and the job rejections. Woobie
who would later celebrate with me through times of rejoicethe
college acceptance letters and the publications of magazine articles
and those backpacking odysseys across Europe.
Mind you, Woobie wasnt always Woobie. On the contrary, before
my beloved blanket squeezed his way into the world as Woobie, he was
known by the less spectacular, far more commonplace moniker of "Blankie."
Plain Blankie, simple Blankie. But, somewhere along the way I decided
to change Blankies name. Somewhere between that summer when I
was twelve years-old and in bunk eight at Camp Pembroke and spilled
puffy paint all over poor Blankie when we were decorating T-shirts for
Color War, and the following Thanksgiving when Blankie and my luggage
got lost during a stop-over on a flight from Boston to California and
wound up on a plane to Tokyo (I got both Woobie back and accumulated
1,000 bonus miles on American Airlines), I decided that Blankie needed
a new lease on life.
A few days after reaching this realization I was watching Mr. Mom, a
delightful movie in which Michael Keaton takes over the domestic role
in the household. In the film theres a scene in which Keaton sits
down his adolescent son, Kenny, who couldnt have been more than
five or six, and explains that its high time he wean himself away
from his own blankie, which he had affectionately dubbed "Woobie".
Kenny was heartbroken, but ultimately consented. I, of course, identified
with Kennys predicament. And so from that day on my blankie, a
movie star in its own right, became Woobie as well.
At first, a young girl with a baby blanket, whatever its name is, doesnt
pose a problem within her social circle of pre-school chums. And even
at South Elementary, it wasnt so much of a big deal. It helped,
of course, that I was determined to remain "out of the closet"
about having a baby blanket, and acted, in fact, proud of it. Some kids
had stuffed animals; I had Woobie. There really wasnt much of
Sure, there were moments during sleepovers when Id undergo the
occasional teasing"Malinas got a blanket! Malinas
got a blanket!"but for the most part, the kids in the neighborhood
were rather cool about me toting Woobie around with me (leading me to
suspect that they, too, kept their own baby blankets stashed away at
home). I can remember one instance during which Kelly Fitzpatrick from
Miss McNultys third grade class actually asked at the end of the
year if she could have a small piece of Woobie by which to remember
me because her family was relocating to St. Louis. I snipped off a small
scrap of Woobie and gave it to her as a keepsake. After that, the rest
of the kids in our class thought having a "Woobie" was right
up there with owning Malibu Barbies townhouse. Before too long
most of my classmates were buying baby blankets of their own. Woobie
and I had started a trend.
But as I got older, things got increasingly more complicated. Its
one thing to be six years-old and learning your ABCs and having
a security blanket; its quite another to be thirteen, becoming
a bat-mitzvah, shopping for training bras, getting your period and still
having a security blanket. My friends at Stoughton Junior High didnt
exactly know what to make of their classmate who aced her PSATs, was
captain of the Debate Team, and curled up with a blanket she dubbed
of all things "Woobie" during the spring break camping retreat
to the Berkshires. And yes, Cameron Cohen might have fancied it just
a tad odd when his date for the United Synagogue Youth Matzoh Ball dance
and sleep-over bash at Karen Yanoffs house to follow turned up
with her sleeping bag, pillow, and
her baby blanket? "Dont
you think youre a little old for that?" Cam cracked, stifling
a laugh. That I never sucked my thumb and started reading Shakespeare
when I was seven and won a state-wide spelling bee at tenand on
the word "theriaca" I might addcame as little consolation
to Cameron, who kept making fun of me all night. But whatever, little
Cam wasnt all that cute anyway, and he wound up married to some
manicurist and now pumps gas at the local Sonoco in Randolph, Massachusetts.
In college, there was even more blanket backlash. My Alpha Epsilon Phi
sorority sisters were, in perfect ra-ra-ra sorority sister fashion,
supportive of my having a "Woobie" (they all had their own
set of problems to deal witheating disorders, upcoming MCATs,
student loans), but I cant say the same for my professors. Professor
McFadden, who taught my American Ethnic Literature seminar was especially
baffled when I, his seemingly sophisticated student (and the girl with
whom he was having an affair, I might add) was both writing my senior
thesis on "Anti-Semitism in Ernest Hemingways A Farewell
to Arms" and snuggling with a security blanket during our nightly
rendezvous in his off-campus apartment.
I came close, once, to giving up Woobie. It was for Michael, my first
real love, and the strikingly handsome Canadian hockey player with whom
I was browsing for engagement rings during the summer after college
graduation. Hed try and hide Woobie on several occasionsin
the laundry hamper, in the garage, under the bedand even jokingly
threatened to dump me if I didnt "burn it" by the time
our autumn nuptials rolled along. "You can give it to our baby
when its born," he suggested, as if to strike a compromise.
But it got me thinking. Was I ready to trade in babyhood for a bridal
veil? Was my refusal to give up my blanket symbolic of me clinging so
desperately to my youth? It did seem strange, after all, that where
toddlers had long since accepted the natural rite of passage from infancy
to adolescence, I was still fighting it every step of the way. That
this reluctance to dive headfirst into adulthood took the form of a
raggedy old shmata, and only when I was sleeping, was especially peculiar.
What did it mean? Fortunately, before I had enough time to sort out
this emotional conundrum, I caught Michael cheating on me with a half-blind
Laotian supermodel, and never had to face the issue. She wound up on
the cover of Italian Vogue; I wound up keeping Woobie.
But, though Michael and I parted ways, there arrived a time in my blossoming
adulthood when I was continuously begging the question: Are blankets
just for babies?
My friend Lisas five year-old daughter Noa seemed to think yes.
In a world where plenty of other five year-olds had long given up their
security blankets, Noa thought it strange that I still had mine. "Why
do you have a blanket if youre so old?" she asked me one
afternoon when I was babysitting. Lisa, herself, suggested it was something
I take up with my therapist. Maya, Lisas three year-old, said
the only other person she knew who had a blanket was Tess, her youngerat
two-and-a-half years-oldbest friend from school. It never dawned
on me that there might be something seriously wrong with a twenty-nine
year-old having a "Woobie" until so many people started to
ask me why I still had one.
So how did I go from being a mewling, puking infant with a baby blanket
to a bright-eyed, professional writer with a
well, baby blanket?
For starters, unlike little Kenny in Mr. Mom , my parents never did
try and wean me away from Woobie. A poor sleeper from the get-go, my
parents were keen on anything that would shut me up. They tried pacifiers,
warm milk, buckling me in the car seat and driving around the block
a hundred times in their old rusty brown Cutlass Supreme. When we were
living in a cramped basement apartment in East Boston right next to
Logan Airport my mom used to walk me in the stroller down near the runways
during especially fussy nights just to quiet me down. "The jet
planes were the only thing louder than you," she has quipped. For
some reason it was only Woobie that would eventually put me to sleep.
And, maybe by blind omission, maybe because they accidentally skipped
past some pivotal chapter in a Dr. Spock book, my parents never took
it away. Even today, the only thing my mother seems to care about is
that Woobie is clean. When I come home for a family visit, the first
thing my mother does is grab Woobie out of my suitcase and toss it in
And so, here I am, twenty-nine years old and still stuck on what is
now a worn out, ripped, stained, smelly and looking-more-like-a-dishrag-than-a-blanket,
blanket. And yet, despite all this, I love "him" (yes, I am
hetero-blanket) all the same.
I cant sleep without Woobie. Its been with me for so long,
that by sheer matter of habit, if I curl up in a fetal position at night
and Woobie is not there to cling to, or I cant stuff it in the
crook of my arm and rub my cheek against the hanging-by-a-thread satin
piping, I lay awake tossing and turning all night.
I take Woobie with me when I crash on a friends couch. I take
Woobie with me when I sleep over at a boyfriends place (if he
doesnt like Woobie, then I dont like him). If I meet a guy
and the mood is right and he invites me back to his place and I dont
have Woobie, then I generally dont go. You could say that Woobie
has saved me from more than one potentially disastrous one-night stand.
Will I ever give up Woobie? It would certainly prove itself a struggle.
After twenty-nine years, having a blanket is a habit Id find harder
to kick than, say, a hard-core drug addict does crack. Perhaps its
a matter of trust, of my reluctance to let go of the past and plunge
forward into the future. Perhaps its an issue of comfort, of wanting
to create for myself one tiny pocket of stability in a world teeming
with chaos. And yes, perhaps having a baby blanket is all about desperately
wanting, in the face of lifes many adult-like obstacles, to stay
forever young. For no matter how I act during the day, when I go to
bed each night, I am always still a child.
Lastly, sometimes having a baby blanket even makes me feel special,
like Im part of an exclusive club, a Blankets Anonymous sort of
thing. Its a defining characteristic, something that separates
me from the crowd. And so I embrace it, and sometimes I even say it
out loud: Hello, my name is Malina. Im twenty-nine years-old.
And I have a baby blanket... *
© Malina Sarah Saval April 2003
She had it down cold, that thing that made people fawn
Or, Honeymoon for One
Sarah Saval survives
a week alone
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