It was November, 2002 or so, in Los Angeles, a typical day by the beach: partly smoggy with a chance of sea mist slowly burning away in the late morning sun. Binky Patrollers from two chapters, Redondo Beach and Santa Monica, converged in the parking lot of the King-Drew Hospital with a van and two cars full of huge bags of blankets, a.k.a. binkies.
We lugged bag after bag back and forth from the parking lot to the lobby. When you think of a baby blanket, you think of a little, light thing, so precious, but when you have a garbage bag holding twenty or more blankets, they are heavy. I'm just sayin'.
We split into small groups, each with our own nurse escorts and hospital supply carts loaded with binkies. Hospitals are so confusing--thank heaven for our guides [and for all the great things nurses do, btw]--and the smells and the pain you can practically breathe in the air make it worse. I have vague memories of hallways criss-crossing, and many doors and elevators, rooms full of children and their worried parents, and their sad smiles of gratitude as we gave away blankets.
As usual, we had received many more of the cute, adorable baby binkies, small and cherubically pastel. Never mind that research has shown that babies respond more to bright, primary, contrasting colors than they do to pastels. Never mind Women's Lib; people automatically assume it's blue for boys and pink for girls, and hooray for yellow and green which can go either way, as binkies for boys tend to be scarce. And appropriate sizes and colors for teenagers and pre-teens? Forget it. Really hard to find.
On some level or other, in some wing or other, we came across the young boy/man whose face I can't forget. He had to have been close to eighteen years old, at the top end of our giveaway age range. He was tall, barely fitting in the hospital bed. He was lanky, with tubes and monitors hooked up to his arms. He looked, not surprisingly, miserable.
As always, we didn't know what accident or illness had put him in the hospital, what his name was, or anything else about him. He watched us as we hunted through our piles of adorable, cherubic binkies for something--anything--that wasn't pastel pink, or covered with ducks or bunnies, or crib-sized, something that was at least remotely boyish or teenager-y, since manly was out of the question.
Finally we found one that was close to big enough, at least. Made of various shades of denim and cream-colored patchwork, this was one of those quilts where the unfinished, ragged seams are left on the surface. Binky Patrol, bless them, says there are no ugly binkies, but between you and me, let's just say that some are not "not uglier" than others. Of course, whatever the blanket, someone is going to love it.
We held the quilt up for the young patient to see. He didn't smile, just pointed to one we had set aside as too small and too cutesy for such a large guy, and he said, "I want that one."
It was stroller-sized, a tiny quilt with red and white patchwork hearts.
"But it's so small!" one of us said. "This other one is much bigger."
"I want that one," he said.
So the nurse took it in to him and laid the hearts across his chest. As we rolled our cart away, I looked back at him. He was staring miserably up at the ceiling, with the little heart quilt barely covering his belly. I hope it gave him some comfort. I will probably never know. But I remember him, and I remember, boys need binkies too!
Check out the Santa Monica Chapter of Binky Patrol: http://binkypatrol.org/page.cfm?name=ca_ochoa