Beginning with Nicholas some 10 years ago, all my children have had a love-affair with a blanket. At least one blanket. Lillian has three. But I don't think any one of my kids has loved his blanket more passionately, or infused his blanket with as much personality as Gabriel.
When Nicholas was about 18 months old, he began calling his blanket, a gift from an older woman at church, Na-Na (nah-nah). Well, Gretchen came along and was supplied a new blanket from Grandma and adopted the name, and by the time Lillian started talking the name had morphed into Na-Ni (nah-nee).
So along came Gabriel and he, too, was lovingly made a blanket by Grandma. And he, too, has lovingly called it Nani. His Nani could do anything...fly, protect him from monsters, caress boo-boos. We have been regaled with stories of Nani's heroism, super-powers, and healing abilities. And in four and a half years of aggressive loving and heroic adventures with his little master, Nani had suffered some physical trauma. He had holes, which were stitched back together and frays which were tied off. But he had reached the end. He needed a new start. A face-lift, if you will. So one afternoon two weeks ago, Gabriel lay down for his afternoon quiet time and said a loving and tearful (at least on Mommy's part) goodbye to his best friend. I escorted Nani out of the room after a round of pictures and took him into surgery. As I was leaving and assuring Gabriel that he would have a brand new Nani after quiet time, his funny, last minute request as I was closing the door: "Maybe you could make Nani green this time."
A little cutting, folding, and stitching later and Nani had a brand new look. No holes, no frays, and some nice soft flannel around his borders. As I held the scraps in my hands, I pondered all the memories in which Nani was a part. I held memories in my hands.
Gabriel smiled when he saw him and haltingly said, "I like my new Nani."
But since then Nani has not been on any adventures. He has not exhibited any super-powers. He has not comforted illnesses or soothed bruises. He hasn't even left the bedroom occupied by three little boys. And I even heard one very tired little blond boy say, "I miss my Nani."
Ah, it's the end of an era here. Nani is no more. At least not the Nani. My little blond-haired boy has left that piece of him behind, shed like a skin that no longer fits. A little less baby, a little more man-child. But the memories will swirl about me like the faint aroma of a favorite blossom.
And I will keep tender care of them.