my favorite fork

We have probably all heard of Abby Heugel’s tweet by now: “Welcome to adulthood. You have a favorite spatula now.” It’s true: there’s a spatula we use so often that I keep it in the little spatula dish on the stove, even when it’s clean. It’s lime green with a bamboo handle and I bought it at TJ Maxx before I even made plans to move out of my parent’s home. But I also have a favorite fork. 

It happened like this: When I was 22 and just engaged, I moved into an apartment of my own for the first time. My husband would move in later, you know – after he actually became my husband. But when I moved in, I didn’t have any silverware. This dawned on me after I sat down and tried to eat a meal and didn’t have anything to eat it with. My mother-in-law-to-be came to the rescue. One afternoon when I was at spending time with my fiance at his family’s home, she went downstairs or into the garage or somewhere and came back with a ziploc bag full of mixed silverware. 

“It’s not matching sets or anything but you might be able to find a few that coordinate,” she said, and handed the bag to me, “Or you can be eclectic and make them all different.” 

I went the eclectic route. No two spoons, forks or knives were matching. One knife was even three-quarter sized, and one fork had U. S. stamped on it and a large oval hole in the end of the handle; for lightness of transport with the US Army maybe? I gathered them all into a cheap silverware tray from Target and was content. 

Then we got married. We used our single Williams Sonoma gift card to buy a ladle (much needed), a garlic press (apparently just for show), copper-colored teaspoons (they matched my wedding colors), and silverware: two spoons, two forks, and a knife. That was $99 of the $100, and we told the cashier to throw away the plastic card – we couldn’t afford to get anything else just to use the last dollar.

In a year, we had a baby. When he was six months old I pulled out one of my eclectic spoons to give him his first meal of rice cereal, just a quarter-teaspoon’s worth on the tip. The spoon was too big of course, but I persisted for a week or two until I finally remembered to put baby spoons on the shopping list. There are now four Munchkin baby spoons with heat-sensitive tips rolling around in the diaper bag, used far less often than they should have been but in my defense the boy loved finger food, and he had a really wide mouth for those eclectic spoons. 

That boy is now two and I’m realizing that eclectic silverware doesn’t make it any easier to teach a toddler how to properly use them. Clearly, toddler utensils need to be added to the shopping list, but who wants to do that when you have an old US Army fork with a hole in the end, or a hobbit-sized butter knife? But perhaps that is just my wild individuality showing – I too-often prefer the unique and unexpected to the ordinary, even when an ordinary toddler fork would make my job easier. It is honestly always a bit of an internal battle now when I sit down to meals: do I give him a full-sized fork like a good, patient mom (damn my absent-mindedness in shopping!), or let the gooey mac’n’cheese become finger food (again)? 

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I must have had a good morning that day that I gave him silverware when we sat down to lunch together. I didn’t pay much attention to which silverware I gave him, except to reach past the heavy, polished pieces from Williams Sonoma to get the smallest one in our bunch of definitely-adult-sized forks. And so we sat down together with our no-two-alike forks and our diced sweet potatoes with cinnamon and I think I actually was looking at something on my phone when he interrupted me.

“Twinkle shtarsh!” he exclaimed, holding up his fork.

“What?” I looked at him confused.

“Twinkle shtarsh!” He pointed a chubby finger at the handle of the fork he was holding up. I looked at the fork. He was right – there were tiny starburst patterns all along the handle. 

“Sing twinkle shtarsh, Mommy?” I smiled. Yes, why not?

“Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high,” he listened, and gazed adoringly at his fork, “like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle twinkle little star…”

“How I unner what you ow,” he chimed in almost inaudibly. 

I sat in the moment, silent for a few minutes even after he went back to stabbing and inhaling his sweet potatoes. Perhaps the toddler utensils that never made it onto the shopping list were less crucial than I’d thought. Maybe I could miss out on a few supposed necessities and still end up with a successful, spoon-wielding boy after all. Maybe – just maybe – what this boy needs from me isn’t the perfect preparedness one expects of mothers, or constant use of heat-sensitive baby spoons. Maybe what mattered more all along was the eclectic, the unique. Maybe he just needed me to be his mama, unlike any other mama. Shining and twinkling in my own funny way, just like the starbursts he admired so much.

Welcome to motherhood; I have a favorite fork now.

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