All I did was pull open a kitchen drawer to get a butter knife.
I’d been reading the newspaper, drinking coffee, enjoying the early morning quiet. The crumbs in the divider must have been there for weeks. But I hadn’t noticed them before. Now they were all I could see.
So I abandoned the paper, dumped all the silverware in the sink, got out the Comet, and began scrubbing.
It wasn’t until I was putting everything back that it happened. There were nine forks and 10 spoons left on the counter — baby forks and spoons.
I may as well have run into a door, I slammed into the past that hard.
When I had my first child, my mother dug the silver filigreed set out of a bureau drawer, polished, then presented them to me.
The oldest, filigreed and tarnished, had been mine, given to me when I was 10 months old. I know this because it’s written in the baby book my mother kept, in her familiar script on the page headlined “Baby’s First Christmas.” “Silver fork and spoon.”
The gift is noted, though not the giver, a lavish present for its time. My parents lived with their mothers, first my mother’s mother, then my father’s, for a year after I was born. Both my parents worked. Money was that scarce. Who, of their friends, would have bestowed such a gift?
The other forks and spoons were bought helter-skelter. The Snow White set for Lucy, because she loved Snow White. The Thomas the Tank Engine pair to go with Adam’s Thomas the Tank Engine cup and bowl. A half-dozen plain plastic spoons that traveled with us, to other people’s houses, to the beach, to restaurants. The white ceramic spoon with a bunny perched on top was Charlotte’s. Three long stainless-steel spoons with rubber tops were for sensitive gums. A farm animal fork. A teddy bear spoon.
When I had my first child, my mother dug the silver filigreed set out of a bureau drawer, polished, then presented them to me. My son stabbed Gerber meat sticks with the fork and scooped applesauce and mashed potatoes with the spoon. Both my daughters held what had been mine in their baby fingers, too.
And then they weren’t babies anymore, and just as my mother did, I wrapped the tiny things in tissue paper and stored them in a bureau drawer.
And then my granddaughter Lucy came along.
Decades later, they had a purpose again. She clutched them and dropped them and tossed them and spilled Cheerios with them and often ignored them, her fingers easier to maneuver. But she learned with this set. And Adam did, too, and Charlotte and Megan and Luke.
Now all these babies are kids. Even Luke, who is 3, eats with a grown-up fork and spoon.
So I got a Ziploc bag. And I reminded myself that I’ve done this before. I’ve sorted through board books and packed up stuffed animals and mobiles and stack toys and toys that talk and sing and carriages and strollers and baby blankets. Cribs, high chairs, booster chairs, five-point harness car seats? All these things are gone, replaced by day beds and booster seats and chapter books and electronic games that I can’t figure out to play.
This is life.
Still, I looked at each fork and each spoon as I wrapped them and placed them in plastic. I thought of the little hands that gripped them and I thought of the history that each of them holds.
I walked upstairs and put them away. But not before I wrote a note explaining, so that when they are unwrapped again, the person doing the unwrapping (My grown kids? Their grown kids? Maybe somebody else’s grown kids?) will know that they have found more than forks and spoons.