Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Heirloom Fork

I went dumpster diving yesterday morning. Dumpster diving on the way to work no less. Can you feel the story coming on?

I realized Monday evening as I was setting the table for dinner that Gracie's fork was missing. This would have normally incited a frantic search of the dish drainer and the drawer where it is customarily kept, but not this time. This time I knew exactly where it church. Trevor and I had cooked the night before for our small group bible study. We ended up going to church in separate cars because the rolls weren't quite ready in the oven, and we needed to get there to start setting up the food. Trevor went ahead with the kids and the main course while I waited behind for the uncooperative rolls. I grabbed Gracie's fork as I was rushing out of the kitchen, knowing that the plastic utensils at church would be too hard for her to handle without requiring a complete steam cleaning of the carpet when she was finished eating.

When I arrived, Trevor had already gotten the kids settled and served, so I switched out the plastic fork for her real one that is the perfect size for her little hand. Feeling very proud of myself for thinking of everything, I left the room and went down the hall where all of the adults were waiting. After the study was over, we cleaned up the mess and went home basking in the afterglow of all the compliments we received for our cooking efforts.

Fast forward to Monday night, as I stood there desperately wishing that I had not thought of everything, or that I had thought to tell Trevor that I gave her the fork to begin with. I guess that means that I didn't think of everything, but I digress. You may think it strange that I would be so upset over a stupid fork, but this fork has history. It was mine when I was a child and when I was pregnant with Nathan, Mama gave it to me so that my children could use it. It is dear to me and one day I hoped to pass it on to my grandchildren. So now you can understand why my stomach was in knots as I called Heather to grill her on the trash collecting habits of the housekeepers at the church, and to see if I could use her key to get into the classroom to look for the fork.

After a few phone calls, I realized that I could look in the room the next morning when I dropped Gracie off at church. The church was closed and if the trash was still in there, it would still be there in the morning. So, at 7:10 am I unlocked the door and looked in horror at an empty trash can. The hiring committee can give themselves a pat on the back for hiring trustworthy, efficient janitorial staff. I brought the keys back to Linda and she suggested that I might look in the dumpster outside.

So now I've come full circle....I went dumpster diving yesterday morning. My main motivation was the desire to find the fork for my own peace of mind, but coming in at a close second was the desire to avoid the conversation with my mom regarding the loss! I managed to open the heavy lid and peer inside only to find that I was too short to even reach the bags on top. I found a skateboard/bike ramp nearby and dragged it over to the side to give me a boost. (I'll give you a moment here to get a visual and giggle a little bit.) I know I looked ridiculous, but I didn't care. The job seemed hopeless....there must have been 20 bags in there and I had no way of knowing where to start so I just picked the one closest to me. It took me roughly 30 seconds to find the was in that first bag. I was close to tears when I pulled it out of that food soaked bag and held it up to the sunlight.

I carefully wiped it (and my hands) down with a baby wipe and just sat there and looked at it for a few minutes. I was holding something concrete that linked me in a very tangible way to my past, and I had almost lost it. I have several such objects like it in my home. I have a quilt that my maternal great grandmother and great aunt made. I have pillow cases edged in lace that my paternal great grandmother made. I have a cedar chest that Gramps made for me for my 16th birthday. I have a deep, visceral connection to these things because they remind me where I came from and of the people who shaped my life either directly or indirectly because of their influence on my parents.

Losing any one of these things that I hold dear would not be the end of the world. I would still remember and love the people who gave them to me and nothing could ever change that, but I am glad that I found the fork just the same.

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