Part of growing up is learning to let go. Friends change, relationships end, jobs come and go. But for me, there is one exception to the rule — a constant that’s been by my side from the day I was born and has always been there for me when I needed a good cry or a warm embrace: my blankie.

Yes, I’m talking about my baby blanket. Yes, I still have it. And no, I’ll never throw it out.

My parents tried a handful of times. They attempted to bribe me with candy, shame me (“you’re a big girl now, too big for a baby blanket”), even trick me (“oops, looks like the garbage man already took it away.” He didn’t. I found it tucked away in the pantry in a brown paper bag).

As a toddler, there was nothing better than curling up with my blankie, thumb in mouth. As I got older, Blankie remained by my side, comforting me when my parents divorced, when we moved, when I changed schools, when my dog died.

When my parents were still together, arguments would erupt out of nowhere — during dinner, watching TV, folding laundry. During one particularly heated fight when I was about nine, my parents sent me to my room, hoping I wouldn’t hear the shouting through my closed bedroom door. Scared and confused, I crawled into bed, pushed my stuffed animals aside and reached for my blankie. I inhaled, taking in the scent of sun-dried laundry and the Salem lights my mother smoked back then.

With just a whiff, Blankie could take me back to the seemingly carefree days of my early childhood, when I toddled around in footed pajamas and pigtails, my parents laughing at an inside joke over a glass of Chablis. It was a happier time, and those memories took my mind off of the shouting on the other side of the door.

When I starting going to school, Blankie was always waiting for me when I got home, like a loyal puppy, and just as soft and snuggly. We watched Sesame Street together, Saturday morning cartoons, Charlie Brown holiday specials.

By middle school, Blankie had to go underground. Well, under my bed covers to be more specific, lest any visiting friends see it and shun me forever. In high school, Blankie’s age began to show. Weekly washings with Downy fabric softener kept it smelling fresh but made it thin and threadbare. That didn’t matter to me. I still slept with it every night.

Going off to college and getting my own apartment didn’t change a thing. Blankie was a loyal roommate, keeping me company during late-night study sessions and dateless weekends. I’d hide it away in my sock drawer on the rare occasions I had a guy stay the night. Though one night, when my now-husband was over, I kept it out.

“Looks like a knitting project gone bad,” he’d said.

By that point, Blankie could hardly be classified as a blanket. It was knotted and gray, like a piece of lace whirled around in a blender. I tried to repair it, buying white baby yarn at the fabric store, but my feeble attempts at reknitting failed to bring back its original luster.

I got married, bought a house, had a child. Blankie, of course, was with me (in spirit) the entire time, hidden in a lingerie chest in my bedroom.

Thirty-plus years after our first meeting, Blankie has seen better days. At the beginning, it was a bright, white, twin-size, cotton-knit beauty with satin edges. The satin was the first to fall apart, then the edges began to fray, and then the fibers began to disintegrate bit by bit.

I showed Blankie to my seven-year-old son recently, and he was not impressed. But he has only just begun his own journey with a blanket, a dark green, velour hand-me-down that he drags through the house and wraps around his body like a Jedi cape.

As for my blankie, it’s now so worn that it can fit into the palm of my hand, but I still take it out from time to time, rubbing it against my cheek, nuzzling up to its few remaining threads, remembering all our years together, hoping for many more.

(Photos via Getty)