Tuesday, February 11, 2014

L'Etranger's Fork

Father's fork went missing today. Or maybe yesterday, I can't be sure. It all depends on when I last washed the dishes, which leaves the matter doubtful. It could have been -- well, why indulge in idle speculation.

In any case, the fork went missing on a blazing hot afternoon. Of that we can be sure. On the day in question, I lunched, as usual.

It was the sterling silver one. The fork, I mean, in case your attention wants tethering. My father's name was engraved on one side and there was something engraved on the other side, a scene, picture of ... what? Algiers, Alps, Alf? I don't know. Even though that fork and I broke bread a thousand times or more.

Had we once paused, this fork and I, in the thousand trips we journeyed together between meal and mouth, I would have known. But no, hoisting the implement to its final destination always seemed so critically important, so time-sensitive. And the sun was blazing, need I remind you.

My relationship to this fork has, or had, an odd history. Until a year ago, I thought it was my birthday fork. That's what Norwegians do -- in lieu of teddy bears, Norwegian parents and their Norwegian friends present Norwegian babies with sharp and pointy instruments. It's a Darwin thing.

But last year while waiting for the pasta to cool, reach a safe temperature (near abouts, close enough, or ouch), my eyes happened to land on the inscription. The inscription on the fork. As the sun was blazing. The name on the fork wasn't mine at all. It was my father's.

Which left me to wonder, does this fork now mean less to me, or more? I pondered, and my pasta grew cold.

But now the fork has gone missing and the point gone moot.

I live in a dry climate, and wash my dishes with bio-degradable soap. I know the soap is vegan, not because the price is unconscionable, but because the label makes me cry. Regarding our unwitting destruction every time we brush a tooth or cool our heels at an In-And-Out. "DO YOU KNOW..." the label starts to say, but that's as far as I can go before I weep, uncontrollably.

I wash my dishes with this soap, in a pot, and toss the water from the pot on thirsty plants. The plants are always thirsty, because as I may have mentioned, the sun blazes, always. And tossing this water on thirsty plants, the soap bottle says, will not save the earth as we know it, but can't hurt.

Back to the fork. My fork is gone, and J'accuse the soap. The bottle most particularly. Because the label never once mentioned that before tossing the bathwater, look for a baby.

You can't give me anything -- and I mean this as a warning, in case you were thinking about it.

(The picture? Ceci n'est pas une fork. It's a cake knife. Or as we say in Norway, Kaka Knife. Yeah, Kaka -- go ahead and laugh, you Olympic losers.)


  1. I found my baby fork in the trailer when my mother kicked off. 9 children her only daughter had, and she couldn't ever give one of them their mother's baby fork? WTH? So it's on my kitchen windowsill as a daily reminder to give it to the first grandchild, or maybe the first girl grandchild, since it is covered in flowers. Because, evidently, Danes give babies sharp objects too. And yet we Norse survive. Take that, Darwin! Oh, and maybe the garden will give you back your father's fork, when it's tired of having it around.

  2. "I know the soap is vegan, not because the price is unconscionable, but because the label makes me cry."


  3. I remember when my MIL gave me a small silver spoon when I had my first kid... she thought it would be the right size to feed her with... This is a woman who coveted the 'family silverware'.. I don't know who made her keeper of it.. Knowing her, she assumed it was her right... I have no idea wth the spoon is nor do I care.. My inlaws are gone so I guess my BIL has the 'treasured silver'.. which I know he doesn't give 2 cents about... Oh, and I don't think I ever used that spoon on my first because it was so small she probably would of choked on it.

  4. Things and our relationship to them . . .

    I keep some things because of the memories they bring, because of the dinners on those plates at my grandparents' house, because my dad used that skillsaw to build our house.

    They're not just things. Their links to our memories.

    I hope you find your fork.

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  6. MUSIC I heard with you was more than music,
    And bread I broke with you was more than bread.
    Now that I am without you, all is desolate,
    All that was once so beautiful is dead.

    Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
    And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
    These things do not remember you, beloved:
    And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

    For it was in my heart you moved among them,
    And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes.
    And in my heart they will remember always:
    They knew you once, O beautiful and wise!

    - Conrad Aiken

  7. It's ok, things and I have never had a close relationship. Petrea, never let them put that beautiful poem on my vegan detergent bottle.

  8. With any luck the garden is keeping watch over the fork; here we have to wait until spring for things to resurface. In our house we have a few such utensils, each with meaning far beyond their usefulness because of the memories attached.

  9. The fork may sprout out of the ground in your yard once gardening season begins -- you never know...

    Lovely poem you posted, Petrea!

  10. I definitely have sentimental relationships with all kinds of precious objects, particularly those with family history, so I hope your father's fork reappears.

    Steve tells the story of an aunt who never let anyone leave her parties until all the silver was accounted for. Probably a good idea, given some of his dicier relatives.

  11. I noticed that it was a cake knife before I started reading. I was wondering where you would go. I have exactly zero sentimental items from my childhood, but I wish I did. I hope you find it.

    So, if the soap is vegan, does that mean that non-vegan soap has hamburger in it or something? I'm confused...

  12. Well, you know how I go on about defending objects. They have souls and, I suspect, are vegan to boot.

  13. It occurs to me I shouldn't just check the garden, but also wander up and down the street -- I might find a fork in the road

  14. Don't forget to check the trash...
    jus' sayin'...

    My sisters and I each got a sliver spoon with our names engraved in the handle...and a silver pusher...looks kind of like a hoe...designed for a kid to be able to push his or her food onto the fork without using their fingers!!!

    Wish I still had that pusher...
    jus' sayin'...

  15. :) :) :)

    (I forgot to click on email follow up comments!!!)

  16. So Chieftess, you're saying that you and your sisters were born with silver spoons in your mouths, and you once had a pusher, whom you wish you still had, who looks like a ho? Need I remind you that this is a public forum?

    Karin: As Yogi Berra said, if you come to a fork in the road, take it.

  17. Hope the fork surfaces, in the ground, in the house . . . .

    As I frequently have to remind myself, inanimate objects don't walk off on their own. They are misplaced, usually found when you aren't looking for them.

  18. Hahaha!!! I think you about summed it all up Mister Earl!!!

  19. Chieftess, I had a hoe, too. Like yours, it went MIA.

  20. How many novelists did you parody, just the one? I'm just not that well read.

  21. It started and middled with Camus, and then I felt myself falling into Jamaica Kincaid territory. But they do share a rhythm.

  22. There's probably a raccoon using it now. They're dainty eaters. I always put out a bowl of water so they can wash their hands. But I want you to find it so you'll tell us what the engraving is of.

    As I studied science instead of Eng. lit, I missed your homages. Am I saying that correctly?

  23. Thoughts: Your were obviously carelessly forking around. And yes, you Norwegians and the Darwin thing, like lutefisk, and babies carelessly left in the bathwater. It could be hopeless, but I found my grandfather's hand wrought Chinese scissors in the garden a year later. Rusted and pitted they were, but family memories intact.

    PS. Sure you didn't add a bit of Hemingway? It was blazing hot. Was it four o'clock in the afternoon?

  24. Karin, this post make me think about our relationship with inanimate, lifeless objects.
    Many of them have a "soul", have a story and bring us many memories. Like John Evans said, I also have sentimental relationships with some objects, particularly those with family history.
    I hope the fork surfaces when you least expect it.
    A good text like your inspire me and make me wish to write.

  25. Loosing Olympic events will never get a tear out of me - but loosing that fork would have me tearing the house apart

  26. In a very clever piece, this is my favorite part: "Norwegian parents and their Norwegian friends present Norwegian babies with sharp and pointy instruments. It's a Darwin thing."

    Hey, it's your fork, but I think the loss of it would mean more to you if the inscription on it were your father's name.

    Inanimate objects hate me, by the way. In public, they jump around in jigs and polkas, fly across restaurants, embarrass me and any human companion who's dared to be with me. In private, at home, they just sit there, doing their job. But they grin.

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  28. Lovely, absolutely lovely! I think I could read what you write all day long . . . Oh, how I wish I had this talent! I stumbled upon your website accidentally and I'm so glad I did. And by the way, we are neighbors, I live in La Crescenta.

  29. Thanks, neighbor. (I bought my horse in LC, at the old winery.) And Travel, I see you're a fan of the Huntington. Me too.