The Mysterious Disappearance of Bankie (aka Night Night)

Last week, we went to the oh-so-family-friendly Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos.  It reminded me of Sesame Place, but much more upscale. You’ve still got Grover and Ernie and Elmo wandering around, but the women wear Gucci sandals instead of Mickey Mouse flip flops and the men sport Polo shirts instead of dragon tattoos. No one decks their screaming kids either; when the little darlings get to be too much the parents fob them off onto babysitters or send them to the Kids Camp instead. Teddy and Jo Jo loved it because they got to get their pictures taken with Zoe and sit on the Count’s lap for story time and spend hours throwing sand at each other and at me on the beach. Jamie loved it because he got to go scuba diving every morning and windsurf in the afternoon.

Thursday morning, we went to the Sesame Street character breakfast. As usual, Teddy wanted to bring “bankie,” which was what he had suddenly started calling Night Night. Bankie had been travelling with him everywhere. It played peek-a-boo at the beach with him, where it got covered in sand. It dined on macaroni and cheese with him at dinner every night. And once or twice it even went swimming, which was probably good because hopefully some of the chlorine would kill all the nasty bacteria which I was sure was festering on its blue fleece surface.

I didn’t want to deal with Bankie today. “Bankie needs a nap,” I said and carried my screaming, writhing 16 month old out to the stroller.

The Sesame Street breakfast was in the French village (the resort is sectioned off into different villages, like French, Italian, Caribbean, etc) so I half expected all the characters to be wearing berets. They weren’t, but they did a lot of slithering around the room hugging small children. “You know,” Jamie said in a tone of disgust as we watched Ernie and Bert caress our kids’ faces, “they remind me of strippers doing lap dances. They’re just trying to butter the kids up. I bet they expect the parents to tip them.”

I started to argue with him—after all, it’s wholesome Sesame Street!—but then Abby Cadabby broke out into a weird sort of break dance and I had to agree that he was right.

After breakfast, we went back to our room to change into swimsuits. Teddy charged in. “Bankie?” he asked hopefully, standing in the middle of room. “Bankie?”

The room had been cleaned while we were out and Bankie wasn’t where he’d left it, on the floor by my bed. I did a quick once over of the room and didn’t see it, which was fine; I didn’t feel like spending another morning shaking sand off Bankie and rescuing it when it got thrown into the ocean. (Bankie, alas, cannot swim.)

But when we came back for nap time, we still couldn’t find it. And that’s when I knew we were in serious trouble.

We’d hired a babysitter to stay in the room with the kids during nap time, a Jamaican woman named Leslie. Leslie showed up promptly at 12:30 and then asked if she could leave to get lunch, which I thought was odd. But while she was gone, Jamie and I combed the room. We searched under the beds, under mattresses, opened drawers and checked suitcases. Bankie wasn’t anywhere. Then I realized I had left a bag of laundry on the floor next to Bankie to be washed. Housekeeping must have taken it. I called the front desk. They promised to check.

Teddy wandered around the room, looking bereft. “Bankie,” he kept saying, shaking his head. “Bankie.”

I didn’t want to leave him alone with a babysitter without his security blanket, but Jamie convinced me to go. “Better she deal with him if he’s not going to sleep during naptime than us,” he said.

We came back two hours later. Jo Jo was asleep; Teddy was sitting on the bed happily playing with the sitter. He had fussed a bit, she said, then fallen asleep for about half an hour. When he woke up he couldn’t stop asking for Bankie so she’d finally taken him out of the crib.

I knew if my son was ever going to sleep again for the remainder of the trip we’d have to find Bankie. We stopped at the front desk. No, housekeeping hadn’t seen a blue blanket when they cleaned the room, and it wasn’t in the laundry they had.

I stared at the woman behind the desk. “How can a blanket just vanish out of a room like that?” I asked.

She shrugged.

At 5:30, we went to the Sesame Street Stage Show. Big Bird came out at first and, in the spirit of true political correctness, wished everyone a happy Chanukah and Kwanza before everyone else ran out wearing Santa hats and carrying presents shouting “Merry Christmas.” We had come straight from the beach, so we were all wearing bathing suits and were covered in sand. We got some funny looks from the other moms, who had somehow managed to shower and bathe their kids and dress their families in identical Lily Pulitzer outfits. Teddy was overtired and completely beside himself. He was running back and forth to the stage like a drunken sailor, weaving around and bumping into other kids. At one point he stood, enthralled, as fake snow floated down from the top of the stage onto the monsters’ heads, and happily stuck his hand down the front of the diaper. The man next to me scowled and shot me a dirty look. “I don’t know if you see what your son is doing,” he growled to me.

I was about to grab Teddy when he turned, suddenly, and tottered over to Jo Jo, who was standing quietly watching the show. “Mmwah, mmwah,” he said happily, wrapping his arms around her and smothering her with kisses. She ignored him. “Aah,” I heard a woman say. “Isn’t that sweet?” “Mmwah, mmwah,” my son shouted, now jumping up and down, then suddenly lost his balance and crashed right into her. She toppled to the ground and I heard the sickening sound of her head hitting the pavement. There was a collective gasp from the audience.  I managed to scoop up Jo Jo, who, although crying, we quickly determined was unhurt. Jamie held Teddy in an iron grip on his lap after that.

When we got back to the room for bath and bedtime, there was a pile of clean laundry on the bed—but no Bankie. Jamie went off to the front desk to investigate. Both kids were exhausted. I was pretty sure they’d go straight to bed. But when I put Teddy into his crib, he started crying hysterically. “Bankie! Bankie!” he shouted.

We sat outside on the patio. I felt sure he would wear himself down and fall asleep. But my son was inconsolable. A few times he quieted down, and we thought he was falling asleep, but then Jo Jo would pop up in her crib and scream “Baaah! Baah!” and more crying would ensue.

“This is crazy,” I finally told Jamie, and marched over to the lobby.

“I have a problem,” I told the woman behind the front desk. “ A big problem.” She just looked at me.

“My 16 month old son’s blanket has disappeared from our room,” I said through gritted teeth, “and now he refuses to go to sleep and has been screaming for hours.”

“Oh,” the woman said, now looking mildly concerned. “Oh no.” “I’m sure he’s going to keep all the other guests up, also,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s a terrible situation.”

I waited in the lobby for half an hour, as she called housekeeping, then the various lost and found areas of the resort. There was no blanket, anywhere.

“I’m sorry,” she said apologetically. “There’s nothing else we can do.”

The whole thing just seemed incredible to me. How could a baby blanket disappear from a hotel room and no one know where it was? “I’m sorry,” she said again. “If you want, you can talk to security tomorrow. File a missing property report.”

“I’m going to file a POLICE report,” I said, waving my finger at her.

She stared at me like I was crazy. “I’m sure there’s no need to do that,” she said finally.

She clearly didn’t get it. She wasn’t sleeping with us tonight. I slowly walked back to our room. I could hear Teddy from down the hall. “MA MA,” he was screeching at the top of his lungs. “MA MA!” When I went into the room, he was standing up in his crib, his whole little body trembling. There was a large bleeding scratch on the left side of his face—he must have feverishly been pawing at a bug bite in his agitation. “MA MA!” he shrieked as soon as he saw me, holding out his arms. “MA MA!”

That just did me in. Teddy slept in bed with me for the rest of the night. For some reason, he insisted on holding onto my pink flip flop as a comfort object. Whatever. It was enough to get him to sleep, although I was woken up every half hour by his thrashing about and kicking. A couple times during the night, he woke up and realized Bankie wasn’t there and got hysterical. I calmed him down, but it took a while.

When we stumbled into breakfast the next morning at 7 AM, all four of us were bleary eyed, zombie-like messes. I sent Jamie to the front desk right away. “They have GOT to find Bankie,” I said, laying my head on the table. “I can’t go on like this for the next 48 hours.”

He came back five minutes later with a huge grin on his face. “I’ve got a lead on Bankie!” he exclaimed.

It turns out the supervisor behind the front desk, Beverly, thought she’d seen Bankie yesterday morning, at the same restaurant the Sesame Street breakfast had been held. “I just thought, oh, god, some poor kid is going to keep his parents up all night shrieking because he lost his blanket,” she told Jamie. She’d told the restaurant to hold the blanket there rather than send it to a Lost and Found, in case the family came back for it. She was headed to the restaurant now to find it.

Jamie was rubbing his hands together excitedely. “We’ll have Bankie back by nap time,” he said.

But I was puzzled. What was Bankie doing at the restaurant? I was positive we’d left it in the room.

“You must have brought it without realizing it,” Jamie said impatiently. “Your memory isn’t so great lately.”

We waited for Bankie all morning, but he didn’t show up. Finally, someone paged Beverly. Bankie hadn’t been at the restaurant. There was an all-resort lookout for Bankie. Security had been contacted, as had all the various restaurants, pool attendants, and housekeeping. They were confident he would show up. It was only a matter of time. In the meantime, Beverly was sending a substitute blue blanket to our room. Perhaps it would calm our son down enough so we could all get some sleep?

When Teddy saw the blanket, he threw it to the ground dismissively. “Bankie,” he wailed, his eyes filling up with tears. “Bankie!”

Naptime, was, needless to say, a disaster. And again, the only way anyone was going to be able to sleep again that night was if Teddy slept in bed with Ma Ma. Everyone else slept. Ma Ma didn’t.

By then, it was Saturday. We were leaving for the airport in a few hours.

“Hopefully he’ll forget about it by tonight,” Jamie said cheerfully as he dug into his scrambled eggs and waffles. “I think there’s a three night limit on missing blankets.” I didn’t think we would be that lucky.

And then, miraculously, there was some good news. As we were packing up, the front desk called our room to inform us that Bankie had showed up in the main Lost and Found in the hotel lobby. It had been found near the pool in the Italian Village.

Jamie and I looked at each other incredulously. We hadn’t set foot with the kids in that part of the resort our entire stay.

It was just bizarre. It wasn’t like Bankie could just pick up and walk out the door by itself.

We started to speculate. Perhaps Bankie had been accidentally picked up by housekeeping and when the person realized it, she panicked and dumped it wherever she was at the time, which in this case was the Italian village. Perhaps we had brought it to the breakfast after all, and another family had picked it up only to realize it was the wrong blanket and dumped it unceremoniously by the pool.

But at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter. We had Bankie back. Jamie went off to the lobby to get it.

I cringed when I saw it. It was filthy, and smelled of ketchup and stale French fries. Wherever Bankie had been, it had certainly had a good time.

Teddy broke out into a wide grin. “Bankie!” he exclaimed. He grabbed it and buried his face in it, rubbing the fleece across his skin.

Jamie and I stared at each other. I knew we both were thinking the same thing: there was no way we could let our son get anywhere near the thing. Bankie had to be covered in E. coli.

But I didn’t have the heart—or the energy—to take it away from Teddy. “Bankie,” he said softly, laying his head on it. “Bankie.”

And then, just like that, he promptly fell asleep.