brucekluger.com

    Parenting Magazine, March 2002

    Missing Blanky
    The surreal saga of a desperate dad.

    By Bruce Kluger


    I couldn’t have been a worse father if I’d sold
    my kid on eBay.

    It all began as I was wrapping up an ordinary
    day with my three-year-old daughter
    Bridgette. We were just kicking into our
    nighttime routineface washed, teeth
    brushed, p.j.’s on, stories read, music up,
    lights dimmed, blanky draped....

    Blanky draped....

    Uh-oh. Where’s blanky?

    There are a handful of things in life guaranteed make one’s heart skip a complete
    beata telephone call at 2:00 AM, the sound of shattering glass, the horse-head
    scene in The Godfather.

    Now add one more to add to the list: a missing blanky.

    Like most children’s favorite bedside comforters, Bridgette’s blanky was more than
    just a hunk of fabric. Dubbed “Baby” (short for Baby Blanket), it was large, woolen
    and pink, and had eight to ten patches sewn onto it by Mommy, all cut from old
    outfits of Bridgey’s, making it part blanket, part living scrapbook. Whether crumpled
    in the corner or washed and folded, Baby was divinely comfortable.

    But now she was lost, right? Not exactly. Earlier in the evening Bridgette and I had
    taken a fairly long taxi ride, and I had balled the blanket up for Bridgey to use as a
    pillow. Unfortunately, I never retrieved Baby when we left the cab.

    And now it was up to me to break this terrible news to my daughter, who at the
    moment was cuddled beneath her bedding, awaiting the ceremonial drape of you-
    know-who.

    But before I could find the words, Bridgette beat me to the punch.

    “Hey, where’s Baby?” she asked tentatively.

    I was silent.

    “Where’s Baby?” she asked again, her voice now etched with worry.

    “Honey,” I began, my heart already breaking, “I think...I left Baby...in the taxi.”

    Indeed, the only good thing about the loud, dramatic crying jag that immediately
    ensued from my confession—and, yes, it was very long and very dramatic—was
    that Bridgette’s hysteria quickly exhausted her, and she soon she dropped off to
    sleep, blankyless for the first time in her life.

    My search for the errant Baby started that night. Serendipitously, I actually
    remembered the cab driver’s last name: it was Mr. Machmud. (Around that time, for
    reasons known only to her, Bridgette would ask me the driver’s name every time we
    slid into a taxi.) So I called New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, told the
    clerk my problem and inquired if someone could get on the case for me right away.
    He took down all of the information and told me he’d get back to me if the blanket
    was returnedbut not to get my hopes up.

    “Most of the time,” he said, “unless it’s something really substantial—like luggage or
    a wallet—they just throw it away.”

    The idea of Baby in a dumpster was abhorrent to me. Ever determined, I hung up,
    picked up the white pages and began calling Machmuds all over Manhattan.
    Astonishingly, I actually got through to a few who were cab drivers and, indeed,
    worked on the night in question—but not in the Babymobile.

    I also began what would become a three-times-a-day check-in with the lost goods
    department at the midtown police precinct where all back-seat taxi retrievables are
    supposed to end up. By day two, the cops there knew me by name, and they were
    wonderfully sympathetic to me, especially those with small children.

    “My daughter would kill me if I lost her blanket,” one officer said to me. “I would do
    anything to get it back.”

    That’s when it hit me.

    I began calling the local TV stations and asking to speak with their news desks.

    “Hello,” I began. “I left my daughter’s blanky in the back seat of a cab, and I’m
    hoping if you run a story on it, someone will find it and contact us.”

    This is the point at which I expected to hear a dial tone. Amazingly, though, each
    time I opened with that pitch, the person on the other end immediately got it
    intrigued by the universality of the crisis, charmed by the concept of a father
    desperately going to the airwaves to see his kid smile again.

    On my third try, I hit paydirt.

    “Can you be at home by five to meet a camera crew?” a field producer from a local
    station asked me enthusiastically.

    “In a heartbeat,” I said—then hung up, rushed home and got Bridgey ready for her
    TV debut.

    “Now when the camera points at you, start talking about how we lost Baby,” I said.
    “Then you can say that the taxi driver’s name was Mr. Machmud, and that you hope
    he can get it back to you.”

    Too much information. When Bridgette practiced her spiel for me, it came out less
    as a plea for the return of her precious property, than as an indictment of this poor
    fellow Machmud, who Bridgette was now implying took her blanky. A few coaching
    sessions later, however, Bridgette got the message down, and before we knew it,
    the news crew had arrived, spoken to the two of us on camera, then vanished as
    quickly as they’d come in.

    Which brings me to the saddest part of my stab at daddy heroism: It didn’t work.
    When the item appeared on the news that evening, our little saga got just twenty
    seconds--a few adorable shots of Bridgette, with a voice-over that alerted the
    Machmuds of the world to be on the lookout for a patchwork backseat stowaway.
    Not surprisingly, no one responded to the story, and we never saw Baby again
    (though we bought a fresh facsimile that Bridgette still has to this day).

    This is not to say that the whole ordeal was a complete bust. As it turns out, the
    process we went through to resolve the Baby dilemma—everything from breaking
    the news to watching the story on TV to buying the replacement—was therapeutic
    in the sense that it helped walk Bridgette through the loss, giving her time to adjust
    to a reality that, only days before, had devastated her.

    In other words, she got over it. Now if only I could.