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October 14, 2013

Lisa Madras: Happiness is a warm blankie up my nose — gotta problem with that?

NEW CASTLE — What is your most beloved childhood memory?

I know that the really cool and super-enlightened answer to this would be something deep and meaningful, like "time spent with my family" or "the scar I got on my forehead the day I saved a family of baby raccoons from drowning in a sewage grate."

But I've never saved a family of baby raccoons. And while baby raccoons are totally cute, I don't even really like raccoons. (Not since one moved into my basement and shredded thousands of dollars worth of newly intalled insulation, anyhow. He and his groundhog buddy made my life a living purgatory last year. And I'm not gonna lie — that prejudice now runs deep.)

I do love the time I spent with my family, though — at amusement parks, and in cabins in the wild backwoods of West Virginia, endless hours playing make-believe with my brother, and my first-ever kitty cat, Henry.

But those things (I'm so sorry, family! I'm so sorry Henry!) pale in comparison to the memory of Fuzz Nose.

Fuzz Nose is a name that I'm sure still strikes terror in the heart of my mother. Because everywhere her darling daughter was, so was the dirty, snot-encrusted, raggedy baby blanket that smelled like a combination of death and Tide laundry detergent.

Fuzz Nose offered me all the comfort and security that a child craves, 24-7, in sickness and in health, 'til Mommy's monthly washing did us part. (At which time I would cling, heartbroken, to the side of the washing machine, listening to my beloved swish and swirl his way to a freshness I found neither refreshing nor appealing.)

My delightful little everything-that-is-good-and-wonderful-in-the-world earned his somewhat unusual moniker because of the method in which he brought me the most comfort: shoved unceremoniously into my cranial cavity via my right nostril. That's right, I stuffed the corner of my blanket up my nose.

But like any good girl, I gave up Fuzz Nose when I was ready to do so. If I remember correctly, I was about 27, and had just given birth to my first child. I made the trade only because I was afraid my baby might catch some incurable disease from it.

Five years later, I had my second child, the daughter who would carry on the tradition of carting around a filthy, germ-infested scrap of cloth. And in case you're wondering, I did nothing, nor did I say anything, to encourage this child to do so. In fact, she didn't even know about the existence of Fuzz Nose until just weeks ago, when we were having a conversation about her beloved Brown Blankie, which I affectionately refer to as Zombie Blankie because of his delightful, cadaverous scent. (Hence, I declare in all my unscientific knowledge that blankie-love is a genetic thing, carried around and passed down on some obscure chromosome somewhere in the human body.)

My daughter is 8 now, and hides the existence of Brown Blankie to everyone outside of our immediate family. She's much more cautious than I, as I've tried to teach her that there's no shame is having a "lovey" at any age. But society and peer pressure have got the best of her, and while I don't believe a blankie in the hand should equate to a skeleton in the closet, she prefers to keeps Brown Blankie somewhat of a secret.

I'm always amazed at how many grown-ups are so distraught at habits like this that they feel the need to exclaim (in all their indignation) things like, "You're too big for that!" or "You need to throw that thing away!" (No wonder my poor kid hides her blanket.)

I'm sorry, but ... um, why? I'm pretty sure there are no definitive theories that support the conclusion that having a security object leads to long-term damage.

Now, making a child feel shame for something that they really shouldn't feel ashamed of — that's a different story.

I believe that children who have security objects, be it blankies or woobies or loveys, or any other object, learn a lot of valuable lessons that we could all use: there's a time and place for everything, some things are yours and yours alone, and most important of all, never let go of the things that make you happy.


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