Since my son, Dexter, was 16 months, he loved laying his head on anything to rest. He would race over to where I was feeding his baby brother, do the quick toddler stop, and rest his head on my lap. Prepping for the burp, I always had a cloth ready for after the feeding. Invariable, when I reached down to use it, my sweet boy’s head was laying on it, eyes drowsily shutting. He looked perfectly snug and serene. So, as all good mothers do, I used my shirt for burping his brother. Since then, he has slept with, travelled, and kept it by his pillow every day.
The duck printed cloth, basically a diaper thrown over our shoulders after feedings, had been transformed into something special. Dexter’s “Burp”. That’s what we named his bedside buddy. Luckily, when these particular burp cloths were given as a gift – it was a two-pack. So, thinking ahead, I squirreled away the “Back Up Burp” (another named piece of material), just in case “Burp” was lost. (I recalled the movie “Mr. Mom” and knew we should ween him from a security blanket-type appendage. But, we can all agree that despite all the teasing from Lucy, Linus seemed to be just fine with his blue blanket in tow.) Throughout the years, Burp would get lost in the covers, and we’d hunt and shake blankets and pillows always to find it tucked on the side of the bed, tossed to the floor, or swaddling his stuffed lamb. He found comfort in that little cloth. And quiet. And calm.
Dexter is bright. He’s the kid that will take apart the engine, and reassemble it flawlessly; find wood, whittle it down, and make whatever is on his mind. He’ll ask over and over for things his friends have, and finally just make them himself. Like the trailer for his bike, lacrosse shaft, bow, arrow, quiver, rubber band bracelet loom, para cord bracelets, phiton-type necklace, bike ramp, small car, tent, long board, holster, leather belt, and most recently “fidgets.” You see like most people, Dexter gets antsy. Call him a kinetic learner, busy, jumpy, or just a 7th grade boy. Or you can cram him into the nearly 12% bunch of 12-18 year-old boys who are diagnosed with ADHD. Whatever it is, he’s Dexter. Smart, amazing, sometimes so busy his sister yells at him louder than is ever necessary, and aware. He’s so cognizant of his need to strategize, move, and find comfort in who he is, that “burp cloth” just became a part of him, and us.
As the years passed, Dexter grew, and Burp began to get thinner and more waif-like than a potato chip, so I decided I should swap out the old for the new. I was sure most parents and childhood experts would advise against it, perhaps saying I was encouraging a rare “cotton cloth co-dependent behavior.” Despite my thoughts, I reached into my “everything in my pockets at the end of the day” top drawer – pushed aside special rocks, match box cars, doll parts, legos, and in the waaaay back, I pulled out a bright white cloth with yellow ducks ready for their turn in the pond. In its place I tucked the now fowl-less cloth in the drawer. Truth be told, it was his ninth birthday. Yes, nine. Not months, years.
Fast forward three years – after prayers one night Dexter holds out what looks like one of my dad’s handkerchiefs I used to iron – and asks, “Mama, will you please fix this?” I looked at Burp, looked at Dexter, and said, “Of course I will.” After unknotting the frayed edges, soaking, and drying it, I began to sew. I was slowly piecing together each strand, noticing how much smaller it was and thinking about how much bigger Dexter is today. I finished, and held it up as if it were a priceless quilt. I thought about the many memories which lay in one piece of fabric, so much security, and love. I knew for a boy like Dexter who has been pining to grow up fast, buy the dreaded motorcycle, and play by adult rules, clinging to his childhood was just as important to him. So I’ll mend, sew, stitch, and hold together as much of his boyhood as I can also. “Dexter, Burp is ready!” He came in quickly, said thank you and zoomed out rubbing it on his face.