yes,
it really happened

A Forking Mystery – AKA: Where Stuff Goes In Our House

The forks are missing. This is a catastrophe.

First, perspective.

Yes. There are amazing and important things happening in the world, in my country, in my town. I’m even involved, doing my civic volunteer duty. My girl scout troop is running an encampment to introduce younger girls to the joys of nature and camping. My Junior League colleagues and I are launching a state-wide initiative to offer training to anyone who wants to be more involved in helping to run nonprofit boards (by the way, registration is ending soon so you should visit www.getonboardnj.org asap to register if you haven’t done so already – shameless plug but it’s really gonna be amazing).   There are also one thousand four hundred and fifty seven end of year school events that are on my calendar. So that will be fun.

But what is it that has me really laser-focused at the moment? Scheduling? Organizing? Increasing registration numbers for important things like nonprofit training? Or perhaps finishing the edits on my book so I can finally submit it to agents and maybe be a famous writer? Or at least a published-not-famous writer?

Nope.

The forks are missing. The forks are not broken, the forks are not dirty. I do not have forks where the tines are crooked which I can’t stand because I have OCD and the crookedness feels like evil in my mouth. The forks are just unavailable. The forks are freaking gone. WTF forks? And WTF family? How can I have raised children that allow this sort of catastrophe to happen? How can I live among animals where utensils are not a treasured and respected part of daily life? Take a fork. Use it. Put it in the dishwasher. Maybe the sink if you truly cannot find the energy to open the dishwasher door because of the lethargy induced by eating whatever it was you ingested with said fork. But did you throw out the fork? Did you put it in a couch cushion? Is it hidden in some dark recessed place in our house? What has happened?

I put out an APB when the forks started getting light in the drawer. “Does anyone know what has happened to the forks around here?” I implored, bewildered, confused, concerned. At first there was no response. No interest. Katie started eating pasta with a spoon to avoid the issue. Alex started using his fingers, eating like a caveman. Pancakes with syrup – finger food. Meatballs in sauce – finger food. Alex had also recently begun protesting the forks in general and asking why we had “threeks” (my original utensils from when I got married that I loved because they were colonial feeling with only three tines and coordinating pistol-handled butter knives) as opposed to “fourks” (which I replenished / replaced when the original forks were not enough to keep up with a family of four who ate seventeen meals a day at home). But now we are in a desperate situation. There are four humans in my house and five forks. This is untenable. I wondered if Alex had taken the threeks hostage in protest. “Forks?” I asked again to my family, as I once again unloaded the dishwasher and hypothesized that the forks had run away with the onesie socks from the dryer. The dish ran away with the spoon. And the fork ran away with the…. laundry…

“Why don’t we just use the party forks?” Brian asked, stopping me dead in my tracks. What manner of person…. The party forks are for parties. They are a matching set of 50 – 50 big forks, 50 little forks, 50 knives, 50 tea spoons, 50 soup spoons. The party forks come out only for parties. They have their own drawer. They live together in harmony. They have specific functions – for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, baby showers, etc. They do not join the daily life of insanity of my house. They are my special forks, they match, they are happy in their sole and unique purpose. They live the life I pretend to have on special occasions when we come as close to Downton Abbey dining as we can. The rest of the year we live like barbarians with non-matching utensils. And somehow, I can’t even seem to keep that together.

“Use the party forks?” I whisper, my eyes becoming slits of nuclear threat. Brian pretends not to hear me and my unveiled disgust. “Maybe the regular forks moved in with the party forks – maybe someone put them there”. He is someone. He must be confessing his crimes. I investigate the party forks. I open the drawer of their happy habitat and a light hue of heavenly light shines forth – my party forks glisten and glow and sing hymns of promise of perfect parties and great cheer. There are no stragglers or strangers or threeks. No ransom notes. No DNA clues. Nothing but perfect party readiness. I close the drawer. The light dims. The hymns fade. I am back in the reality of my life. There are no threeks or fourks to be found. I am, alone.

I don’t remember ever having moments in my life growing up where utensils went missing. This was never a thing. In fact, I remember a plethora of utensils and knives as a general rule. Once, my sister opened the utensil drawer and there was a giant cave cricket sitting on top of the utensils. She panicked, slamming the drawer and shrieking. My mother opened the drawer next to it and pulled out a knife, shutting the drawer after making her selection. She opened the cave cricket drawer, took one look at the imposter, and shut the drawer again, going back to the knife drawer for a larger killing tool. She was my hero. And yes, after the cave cricket incident, we washed every utensil, just in case it had been touched by creepy crawly nightmare feet.

Brian’s utensil life growing up was slightly different. He is the oldest of three boys, and I think the gender difference just changes utensil expectations. Brian and I dated in high school and I witnessed firsthand when his mom went upstairs with an empty laundry basket and came back down with it full of dirty dishes, glasses, utensils. But she found them. They were there. Dirty, probably crusty and disgusting, but in this world. When Brian moved into his first apartment he went into his mom’s kitchen and took exactly one fork, one knife, and one spoon. That was all he needed to outfit his kitchen. Apparently he wasn’t planning on entertaining. But Alex is years away from moving into his apartment and taking a single fork. The majority of my forks are just plain gone.

Katie tunes in to my dismay and tries to be helpful – “Mom, sometimes we eat in the car and bring things that need forks. Did you look in the car?” What are my children eating in the car that requires forks? A car snack should consist of either a granola bar or a bag of chips. A trip in the car should not include a meal requiring utensils. This is not first class air travel to a foreign country.

I search the car. No utensils. I do find several water bottles, a tote bag full of broken headphones, a winter hat that I do not think belongs to anyone in my family, and plenty of dog hair. I eye the dogs. Would they take forks? Gryffin – no. He is perfect. But Nicky? The crazy dog on puppy Prozac who needs an extra Xanax when I bring him to the groomer?

I’ve become paranoid. If I am thinking that the crazy dog has a plot to steal my forks, maybe I should be sharing his Xanax? His prescription is stronger than mine – 1.0 mg vs my .25. Perhaps I need a zen-like state in order to evaluate our situation properly?

This is not the first time something has gone missing.  When we moved to our new house from our old house I left an entire dishwasher full of clean dishes. I had to go back and get them a week later. It wasn’t my best move. But I found them. Eventually.  Katie once lost her laptop computer for school.  I was furious with her. How do you lose a laptop? How can you be so irresponsible? She looked for months – in every tote bag, basket, nook and cranny of the house. No laptop. Then I went into a cabinet to look for a new checkbook and found her laptop sitting there. I all of a sudden had a rush of memory – of Katie using her laptop to play games and not listening to me when I told her it was time to put it away. Of me taking the laptop and telling her I was confiscating it until she could be a better listener.  Yup. I did that. Mea culpa Katie. My bad.

Right now I am stymied, transfixed and frozen by my inability to locate the missing forks. The fact that I have decided to let the fork thing be at the top of my mental list probably says something subconsciously about my priorities, my place in the world. I don’t know what that might be. But for now, the party forks will stay put. I’m serving dinner with chopsticks. I have a very pretty (and very underutilized) matching set of those.

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