I see it, even in the microcosm of the universe that makes up my own not-so-tidy little family. Our fourteen-year-old Sadie who actually tucked with premeditation one pant leg (covered in cat hair as it was) into her striped knee sock. “I know. I want it that way,” was her retort when I brought it to her attention and suggested that she might want to fix her pants before she left for school. She also meant to wear her brother’s outgrown Under Armour shirt inside out.
She likes it that way, and who am I to judge? Did you intend to leave those Oreo crumbs all along the side of your mouth? Just wondering; just making sure.
If Ethan doesn’t have a white bowl with “a lot, a lot of white,” there is often an issue. We no longer question it or try to switch it out. We offer a hot one from the dishwasher, or, when necessary, we do a quick hand wash to produce a white bowl. Though this may seem similar to a toddler’s impulsive urge for control (Sadie, for a time, needed the blue cup, or the pink one, or whichever was not actually available), it is in fact very, very, very different.
Dan was helping the two little boys set the table. I heard Ethan’s high-pitched protest from outside the kitchen. This noise, of late, has come to mean that our little boy is escalating, and that he might need intervention if he isn’t tended to right away. “I don’t want the dirty fork!”
“Give it to Mom. She likes ‘dirty forks.'” And I do. The dirty forks came up from the basement a few years ago, when I came to the realization that we might never use our “real silver” utensils if they remained in the fancy velvet and wooden keeper where they had been since 1990.
The silver forks remind me of something. I am drawn to them in their imperfection. Under the tarnished layers of rust and green, these forks hold a bit of mystery. They have a past, and they are strong, detailed, and brave. I think they remind me of the traumatized children that have been in my care. Their strength and resilience is evident, on a given day, beneath the anger, angst, and often unexplainable behaviors. They are stoic beyond measure . And no matter how much effort we put into polishing these utensils, the tarnish returns from time to time, for it can never be completely wiped away.
In 1978, milk tasted much colder in the chocolate brown Tupperware cup than it did in the pea green, orange, or yellow one. I am not sure it elicited the same comfort for my brother or sister; perhaps it reminded them of something else. This brown cup reminded me of cookies and cake, and it made me happy.
“Your eyebrows are messy,” I was once told by a girlfriend, one that was neatly put together on a regular basis. I am pretty sure that she gave my eyebrows more thought than I ever had. Even today, I prefer to pull weeds from my garden than to pluck my eyebrows.
In a white bowl, a chocolate Tupperware cup, a real silver fork, and a one-pant-leg-in fashion statement…there is comfort and meaning for someone. The souvenir given by a lost love, the way someone made you feel safe, the memory of your belly hurting from laughter with your birth siblings…they are meaningful. They are worth celebrating, because they are important to you.