me and not me

This is Youngest’s bed, unmade.  At twelve, he still occasionally sleeps with the last remaining piece of his "skinny", the sheepskin he slept on when he was a baby.  Before he was born, I lined his basinette with it and later, when we moved him to a crib, he would snuggle his cheek against it every night.  He was exceedingly attached to it and needed it to help him move between waking and sleeping as well as between emotional upset and calm.  Winnicott called such items "transitional objects." 

When he was somewhere around two years old, I noticed that when I came into his room in the morning, the floor would have a light dusting of sheepskin fluff. After a few days of this I realized that, as he waited to be helped from his crib in the morning, he would sit quietly and pull tiny pieces of sheepskin off, reaching his hand through the bars of the crib and dropping them to the floor below.  Over time he almost completely  deconstructed his own transitional object.  When he got it down to its present size, he stopped.

I asked him today, perhaps ten years later, if it matters that he sleep with it. He shrugged and said, "If it’s not there, I don’t go to great heights to find it.  But sometimes…" and here stopped speaking and mimed putting the sheepskin between his hands, resting his cheek on his hands and closing his eyes.  In that moment, I think we were back there together, back in the language-less time when his sheepskin helped him negotiate, as Winnicott said, the difference  between "me and not me."


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