I am 4 years old, tucked into the bottom bunk, anxiously awaiting the ritual. I know that Janine, my older cousin, neighbor, and faithful babysitter, brings a youthful zeal to my meticulously crafted bedtime ceremony, and as much as I worship my mother, I am delighted Janine is here. I’ve even scrambled under the blue striped, worn bed spread earlier than usual.
“Ready?” She’s breathless from all the games, books, and giddy hallway chases a child can fit in one evening with their favorite sitter.
“Yep.” I know she knows I’ve been waiting all evening for this.
She scoops my soft, faded baby blanket from the foot of the bunk, with an equal blend of delicate reverence and excitement that I appreciate. I’m smiling.
“Is… this your favorite corner?” Hah! The worst of the 4. The only one still rectangular and intact.
“No…” I’m still smiling anyway.
“Is… this… your favorite corner?” This one is utterly neutral to me. Of course not.
“This one?” So close, Janine! A good guess and my second favorite.
Though the climax is near, a sleepiness lodges in the back of my neck. I wait quietly as if I have no idea what might happen next.
“It must be this one!” She’s found it. The corner of my baby blanket with the hardened, misaligned stitching. The one that I use to softly scratch my tiny nose to sleep every night as far as my memories can reach.
“That’s the one!” I reward her decisively with my approval and she rewards me with the blanket corner.
“Yayeee!” Her voice is higher and louder than Mom’s, her laugh so booming and genuine. Janine is like the single, sliced strawberry in my cereal—perhaps too punchy for me on its own, but perfect sprinkled into a bowl of healthy bran. She breaks up my mom-routine in the best way.
The ritual has ended and we are both ready for quiet. I curl the gentle stitches of my favorite corner of 'binky' back and forth over the bulb of my nose. It is the oldest thing I own but it always smells fresh. We’ve won the game. We have found and celebrated a thing that brings me comfort into the dark unknown. I will continue this tedious devotion to a perfectly uninteresting blanket corner for years. Just saying the word 'corner' in my mind is a source of gentle delight.
I think we need these small devotions, even as adults. Looking back, I had so many tiny loves that might be hard to describe to the rest of the world, but they weren't hurting anyone, and they brought me untold ease and excitement. Binky rituals evolved into diary entries and friendship bracelets, barley in soup, Babysitter's Club, drawing the same cartoon dog on all my note pages, twirling on one sock-foot until I lost which way was up. My childhood is a nonlinear blur of things I needed to stay anchored and curious and focused in the world.
Somewhere along the line, my small things began to be judged... by other kids, teachers, or the like. I wasn't always chastised but I wasn't 'cool' either, so I constantly scrambled to do the 'cool' thing. Having a trendy backpack became important. Knowing the words to all the pop radio hits became important. Caring about references to things that didn't even interest me became important... because being liked seemed like life or death, especially at school.
Being liked grew stressful in middle school. Phone calling and kissing boys got not-so-casually thrown in the mix. Reconciling my teacher's-pet-ness with wanting to be liked by the cool kids got pretty complicated (and still is). Mom's homemade sandwiches and pizza rolls were better than anything the other kids had... but some days I was embarrassed not to have Lunchables or Gushers (though both are basically sugar, fat, and borderline poison chemicals in colorful packaging). I had to go through these long, awkward years of 'trying to be cool' to figure out how to be bravely myself instead, and I find that I'm settling back into even smaller devotions... a single breath, a song on repeat in the car, a clean kitchen, a stolen hour at the beach with a new book.
What are your small things? From childhood or from now? What brings you untold comfort for seemingly no reason? I invite you to slough off everything you're 'supposed' to be devoted to today and honor a small, comforting thing. Not a numbing thing. Ideally not a digital thing. No grand gestures or planning involved. A small thing, just for you.