If you have a teaspoon of knowledge about child development, you are aware that young children form attachments to certain objects and that these objects help the child “transition” from dependence to independence. My children had “blankies” which we called “nu-nus” but perhaps blankies have fallen from favor now that babies slumber in sleep sacs because blankets in the crib are verboten. The nu-nus were literally dragged everywhere and finding an opportunity to wash them was a minor miracle. I think those germs helped the toddlers’ microbiomes.
As a busy mom, I appreciated the power of the nu-nus to calm and distract a cranky child, and importantly, ease a child into sleep. The downsides were, of course, having to be constantly tracking its location and the slight cringe induced by seeing your fully ambulating, full-sentence speaking, toilet trained child out in public with his/her thumb in mouth dragging a filthy piece of cloth. Judge me not.
Alas, as you know, darling Lo is transitioning. And her object, or more accurately, her objects of choice are wubbanubs. If you are not a millennial parent, you may not be aware of these combination pacifier/stuffed animals. They are the ultimate all-in one soother. A collection of these has developed – bunny, giraffe, lamb and cow – and Lo tends the herd through out the day. ( A satellite herd -penguin and monkey- lives in the car.) After breakfast, she toddles back to her room to rescue them from the crib. It is difficult for her to carry all four, but she manages. All four must be accounted for before she will sleep. Woe be to us all if they fall from the crib.
I am not sure how long this fascination will last, but it has me thinking about how sacred transitional objects can be, at any stage of one’s life. When I left for college, I brought with me the patchwork quilt bedspread my Nana had made for me. Although I recognized that it was a decorative outlier among the urban sophisticates in my dorm, it was indeed a comfort. It served its purpose and I was able to put it away within a few weeks. It was later relegated to beach blanket status. From there, it disappeared. I would give up every blanket, afghan and bedspread I have ever owned to have it back to ease me through the future transitions.
My mother seems to have selected a transitional object, and it also patchwork. Around 15 years ago, while bravely weaning herself off of over-prescribed pain killers (oh, if we knew then what we know now about opioids!), she began what she called her “sanity project” which was to hand-stitch richly-hued velvets and velours into crazy-quilt pillows. This may have been the time I felt the closest to and proudest of my mother and I was prouder still that she gave me two throw pillows to commemorate this time.
In recent months, my mother has unearthed 4 more incomplete pillow tops from this period. They are constantly beside her as she sits. She folds them, pats them and, each time we visit, tells us anew that she has been “working on” them all day. We discuss if they should be made into pillows, or perhaps teddy bears for the little ones. My sister and I roll our eyes – we know the origins of these objects and know that she will never again create with a needle and thread.
But I have been thinking about transitions and transitional objects and perhaps these soft and colorful swatches are helping my mom retain a bit of the person she was as she transitions to the unknowable. And, perhaps my two crazy pillows can help me become the person I will be without my mother.
In the meantime, I will look with wonder as Lo reveres her wubbanubs and moves from baby to toddler to little girl. We all need a little bit of comfort as we change.