I drove 100 miles to retrieve a smelly blanket for my inconsolable daughter | Steve Canavan
There was serious drama in the Canavan household during Easter, concerning a small grey blanket with three cartoon hedgehogs on.
In a scenario I wouldn’t have thought possible prior to having my first child a few years ago, it ended with me making a 100-mile round trip to collect said item.
Let me explain.
My four-year-old, Mary, has a blanket which she takes everywhere – nursery, the park, the museum to look at the latest Edvard Munch exhibition (she’s very advanced for her age. Last week I walked in her room to find her sipping an expresso and reading DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Nursery have tried to get her to try Peppa Pig Goes To Scotland but she’s just not interested).
The blanket has a name, Blankety, which isn’t the most inspired, but is kind of suitable I suppose. Before any trip out, or even if she’s doing a mundane task like having her tea or watching TV, she’ll ask, ‘can Blankety sit with me?’
I don’t know whether to find this endearing or worrying – I mean what age is she going to grow out of this?
If she still wants Blankety when she’s in halls of residence at university she’s going to get severely picked on. (‘Hey girls, have you met Mary yet in room four?’ “You mean the weird one?” ‘Yeah, that’s her. I knocked to ask if she wanted to get drunk on sambuca and vodka but she said she couldn’t because she was looking after Blankety’).
I do know, of course, that it’s perfectly normal for children to have weird things they’re close to. I myself owned an imaginary trombone. I would walk around the house doing the hand actions of someone playing trombone – which must have looked to an onlooker as if I was constantly pulling spaghetti from my mouth – and making a trombone sound from my lips. I also had an imaginary case in which I kept it and insisted my parents put it outside each night. I wouldn’t go to sleep until they’d done it, so each evening one of my parents would have to stand at the front door and shout up the stairs, ‘I’m just putting your trombone in the porch’, then opening the door and closing it hard so I’d hear.
‘Is it out now?’ I’d call.
‘Yes,’ my dad would reply, then presumably retreat to the kitchen where he’d speak in hushed tones to my mother about the possibility I was suffering from some mental condition and at what point should they consider counselling.
So maybe Mary gets it from me but, whatever, she is inseparable from this blanket.
Anyway, all was fine until the weekend when, taking advantage of the fact we’re now allowed to visit people (as long as we stay in the garden, obviously), I took Mary to see my sisters and my mother.
We had a very pleasant afternoon walking the dogs, bouncing on the trampoline, and attempting to stop Mary and her six-year-old cousin punching each other in the face when they inevitably wanted to play with the same toy, then said our farewells and drove home.
It was late when we walked through the door (well, 8pm, but late in child terms) so I took Mary straight to bed.
I was just tucking her in when she sat up, worried look on her face, and said ‘where’s Blankety?’
My first thought was that it must be in the car or downstairs. ‘I’ll just go and get him,’ I said. It did briefly occur to me, as I walked down the stairs, that I might have left him at my sister’s but I dismissed this thought immediately. There’s no way I’d have done something as stupid as that. At which very moment my phone beeped and I read a message from my sister, saying ‘bad news – you’ve left that smelly moth-eaten grey blanket here’.
My blood went cold. I couldn’t have been more horrified had I opened the door to find a rotting corpse on the step.
I told Mrs Canavan the news. ‘Oh it’ll be fine,’ she replied calmly, ‘just tell her Blankety is having a sleepover at his cousins. She’ll think it’s fun.’
I crept back in to Mary’s bedroom, to find her sitting bolt upright. ‘Have you got him?’ she asked, before I’d even taken half a step into the room.
‘Erm, well no,’ I started, then quickly added, ‘but you’ll never guess what – he’s having a sleepover.’
It was as if I’d pressed a button marked ‘Mary goes ballistic’ for my daughter’s face crumpled. She began crying and wailing with a gusto and volume I’ve not witnessed since my mother trapped her finger in the bi-fold doors.
I spent the next hour sat by my daughter’s bedside, as if consoling a hospital patient who’s been told they have a week to live. I even got my sister to send pictures of Blankety in various positions around her house – the bathroom, the kitchen table, on the settee watching tele – so I could say, ‘look Blankety is having a great time’ – all to no avail.
And so it was that at 9.30pm at night, with Mary still heartbroken, and probably breaking government guidelines about unnecessary trips (though I’d argue strongly in court this was an absolutely necessary trip and hope to god the judge had young children and would nod his head and announce, ‘Mr Canavan, I hear you – not guilty’), I drove 49 miles to my sisters to pick up the damn blanket and 49 miles back.
When I got home just before midnight Mary was asleep, her little face still tear-stained and puffy and red. I placed Blankety carefully beside her in bed, kissed her and crept out.
Next morning she bounced into our bedroom as usual shouting ‘happy morning’ (it was 6.40am – the phrase ‘happy morning’ has never been less apt). ‘Have you got blankety?’ I asked.
‘No, he’s having a sleepover remember,’ she said, addressing me as if I were thick (she’d clearly not seen it when she’d leapt out of bed). ‘I bet he’s had a great time,’ she added, ‘can he stay there tonight too?’
I won’t lie, I briefly considered strangling her.