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The Enlightening Tale of Jay and Manky

Manky and Jay are brothers in a sense. They both entered our lives shortly before the birth of Little Man as gifts to celebrate his impending arrival. They are both soft, cute, inanimate objects and both can claim the accomplishment of making the cut of preferred status early in Little Man’s life. Manky is a dog, of sorts, who…judging by his apparel… has previously spent some time at sea and though he does have arms, this seems to be the extent of his body…which then continues on as a blanket. Jay is more of a straightforward kind of fellow. He is…well…a jay, and more specifically a blue jay of the Beanie Baby persuasion. Both can be seen in the above picture lounging upon Special Blankie III, the third blanket I ever taught myself to knit.  You see, after deciding that knitting Special Blankie #1 would be a good idea to pass the time as I peacefully, blissfully,…and childlessly… awaited the birth of my eldest, I was then guilted (mostly by my own fears of motherly inadequacy) into making Special Blankies for the subsequent two babies under completely different, much less peaceful, messier circumstances…the knit-less years between the birth of each assuring the need to relearn the skill… The lesson I took away from that whole experience being: before you start a project for your first born, imagine yourself doing that same project (in the interest of equality) for future children you may plan (or not…because s..tuff happens) on having…but this time imagine yourself doing said project while surrounded by the previous child/children (and, yes, I stand by the assertion that one child can successfully surround you). But I digress.

There are different types of children when it comes to the objects of their affection (obsession)…aka lovies. In this, each of my three chose a different path. My Moon liked several different stuffed animals, and had an affection for her Special Blankie…but was most attached to her Ciuccio (Italian for pacifier). She was not even all that particular about what kind of pacifier she had plugging her mouth…as long as there was one. This made emergency replacement on vacations or at home as easy as a trip to the supermarket, though rarely necessary given the shear number of Ciuccios which could be found at any given moment in the house, my purse, my pockets, the car….

My Sun detested pacifiers and chose her Special Blankie as the object of her greatest affection. She would occasionally allow a stuffed animal to occupy a special place in her heart, but, as long as Special Blankie was there the loss of any stuffy never drew more than a tear or two from her eyes. In her case, though a bit more complicated and time consuming, emergency replacement was only a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles (and an instructional book on knitting) away. This only ever happened once, resulting in the fourth (and last) blanket I taught myself to knit.

When Little Man became old enough to search out the inanimate objects of his affection and to show his preferences, I was determined to draw on my past experiences and to subtly assert my motherly influence. After all…this was not my first rodeo, and I felt confident in my plan to steer him toward an easily replaceable lovey. Pacifiers, though he would occasionally use one, were definitely not high on his list, and were quickly checked off. Special Blankie has always had a position of honor in Little Man’s crib…then on his bed…but was never specifically requested on trips or outings of any type. To my chagrin, the stuffed animals or blankets that I would select to bring along when he was a baby were not the ones he began to gravitate toward once mobile. Almost overnight and seemingly out of nowhere, Manky climbed the ranks and became a constant companion who would occasionally be flanked by Jay.

Once it became clear that sleeping without Manky was, in his little mind, ABSOLUTELY NOT an option (for a kid with iffy early communication skills, he was crystal clear on this point) and after a close call at an airport where, had Manky not turned up before the flight, I am fairly certain that I would have attempted to file an actual missing persons report on a sailor dog blanket, I popped onto the information highway intent upon purchasing a back-up Manky. As he was a gift of the boutique persuasion, it took a little research to track him down. So, when I finally located him and the store that could provide me with his secret twin, I was thrilled…until I scrolled down to the price. It was going to cost me around $50 to purchase an exact replica… a bit extreme for something that would be hiding in my closet and only ever appearing on scene in the event of Manky’s untimely disappearance or demise. They did have a smaller, much less expensive version, which got me to thinking. I purchased the mini Manky and planned on introducing him as Manky’s younger, cooler, brother so that I could then phase Manky into more of a safe, stay-at-home supporting role in Little Man’s life. My pitch was not well received, to say the least. The more I tried to play him up, the more the petit Manky was rejected…until he eventually retired into one of the toy boxes, rarely to be seen again.

That is when I turned my attention to Jay. Little Man loved Jay! Jay and Manky were best buds in his world. I could work with that! Before making a move, I hopped back onto the internet to check on Jay’s status (price), fearing he might turn out to be one of those rare collector’s items Beanie Babies, making the cost of twin Manky look like pocket change. As luck would have it, a replacement Jay came to the grand total of $6. I bought two. Try as I might, I could not shake Manky from top rank. The only thing I did manage to do was to convince Little Man to bring Jay to daycare instead of Manky…as a sort of foot soldier marching alongside him into the room full of little people, while Manky held down the fort at home. I hid Daycare Jay in the glove compartment of my car and accepted my small bittersweet battle victory with the knowledge that I had lost the war.  Any time we went on a trip, Manky’s presence was demanded and I found myself checking and double checking and triple checking to make sure he did not fall out of the stroller or get left behind in the hotel, the rental car, the plane, the bus, the train….

As he and The Sisters get older, I have embraced this lesson of defeat and learned to see it more as a lesson of acceptance. They are their own people with their own preferences, likes, and dislikes that will not always coincide with mine. I can (and will) continue to give my advice, but it will not always be welcomed or accepted. I no longer buy clothing for the girls without verifying with them that it is actually something they like and will wear, no matter how much I would like to see them wear it (something I know will eventually happen with Little Man, as well, but for now…as long as there is a dinosaur, shark, bug, or other creature somewhere on there…). I can try to steer them away from friends that I feel from experience will disappoint them, but ultimately they will make their own decisions and learn their own life lessons. And…when Little Man brings home the love of his life…if she isn’t the one I may prefer…I will pull out a picture of Manky and Jay to remind myself that, in the end, the choice is not mine to make….

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