As a small child, I thought that my blanket was alive and that it had the ability to experience human-like emotions (this is described as animism, a common cognitive practice for preschool aged children). My Mum had handmade my blanket when I was born and as I grew older it became my partner in all things imaginary (side note: my blanket’s name was Gigi, pronounced gig-eee … there is no known origin story for this odd name). When I needed to dress up as the nuns from The Sound of Music, which I did on an unusually regular basis, Gigi became my habit. When I needed to jump from my invisible hot air balloon in order to rescue puppies from becoming one of Cruella Deville’s fur coats, Gigi became my parachute. When I needed to fall asleep despite there being a colony of hungry Gremlins vacationing under my bed from their natural habitat in my bedroom closet, Gigi became my shield and protector. When I simply needed someone to partake in an imaginary bedroom picnic of invisible pink lemonade, see-through chocolate chip cookies and unseen miniature cucumber sandwiches, Gigi became both my picnicing companion and picnic blanket (such a multitasker). Because of all of her (yes, her, Gigi even had a gendered pronoun) uses and abilities, Gigi looked less than lovely. She was torn, patched and a bit of a hot mess. Nonetheless, she was loved and admired by one very weird four year old.
Now, I was a quiet child for the most part. I liked having outdoor adventures in the woods with my older sister, and two of our friends, where we would reenact scenes from The Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables, The Neverending Story and, of course, The Sound of Music. I was also a great fan of spending hours by myself in my bedroom playing made up games with my stuffed animals and drawing maps of made up places. I was normally quite content and wasn’t one to make a fuss (we’ll discuss my 1986 meltdown upon learning that my new baby brother was not a litter of puppies another time).
The thought of going to kindergarten was very abstract for me. I knew it was something that my sister had done like a champ but I don’t think I ever fully understood what it meant to go to school. When my Mum sat me down and gently told me that I wouldn’t be able to bring Gigi to school with me, my little four year old self could have lifted up my mother and thrown her across the room. In my mind, Gigi would be heart broken, lonely, scared, abandoned, deserted… my poor little blanket. I simply couldn’t put Gigi through that. After much consoling (and let’s be honest, there was probably cake and/or ice cream involved), my Mum made me a deal. She sewed me a miniature sized version of Gigi (named Porta-Gigi due to her portable nature) that I could carry with me in my backpack every day to school. And I did, for three years. At snack time I would open up the front pocket of my backpack and gently pet Porta-Gigi to show her that she wasn’t alone and that I hadn’t forgotten her (I once brought my full sized Gigi for show and tell to share with my peers all of her amazing make believe skills. True story. Were they impressed? No. Did I care? Of course not, I was proud as can be of my blanket).
Like many children, Peter Pan excluded, I grew up and began to forget the objects and hobbies of my early childhood. Scribbled maps, scattered picture stories and imaginary playmates became distant memories that were replaced by current world events, daydreaming about boys and learning how to do long division. Over the years, Gigi lost her original flare and she went from being my closest playmate to just the blanket that laid at the end of my bed, and eventually in the seventh grade her raggedy, discoloured, threadbare skeleton was retired and laid to rest in the trash bin. However, I recently in my adulthood come across an interesting find while clearing out the contents of my Mum’s basement. In an unmarked cardboard box with a collection of childhood art work, report cards and school photos that belong to me and my siblings collectively, Porta-Gigi somehow found a long forgotten/undisturbed resting place (pictured above with a photo of me, age 2-3ish). I had the strangest feeling of happiness and relief upon finding this miniature blanket square. For a moment, I could taste the invisible pink lemonade and felt comfort from the hungry Gremlins. She hadn’t changed a bit and I felt in that moment that neither had I.
So, washed and ready to travel, Porta-Gigi has returned to her rightful spot in the front pocket of my backpack. It took 26 years, but what can I say, Gigi is really patient.