First off, let me make one thing clear: I am not one of those people who insist on eating their pizza with a fork. Nor do I use a fork to eat french fries, or nachos, or snickers bars: these foods are called “finger foods” for a reason. So don’t go thinking that my insistence on the presence of cutlery means that I have some weird obsession with not touching my food. I don’t. It’s just that, no matter how deeply you embrace food truck culture, no matter how many servings of cheesecake-on-a-stick you end up consuming, there are still some foods that require the use of a fork. So much so that I sometimes suspect the fork was invented just for them. Foods like salad.
Salad needs a fork. Sometimes, depending on how lazy the person who was preparing the salad was, a knife and a fork, but always, at the bare minimum, a fork. Which explains why I was in my son Clyde’s room at four o’clock this morning with a flashlight and a bad attitude.
“What are you doing?” he asked blearily.
“Trying to eat a !@#$ salad!” I replied, shoving a pile of dirty towels off a dresser. The towels landed with an disturbingly un-towel-like sounding crash.
“What?” he asked again, still confused.
I didn’t take the time to enlighten him, because at that moment I spotted a fork sticking out of the towel disaster on the floor. “You’re cleaning this up today,” I said on my way out.
That woke him up. “But you’re the one who made the mess!”
“Hardly,” I replied. And then, wishing for an autoclave but settling for scalding hot water and soap, I cleaned my hard won fork and ate my salad. (Sometimes I like to eat salad for breakfast. And I like to eat breakfast very early. Don’t judge.)
In general I’m pretty lax about the state my children keep their rooms in; as long as they aren’t structurally damaging the house I’m content to let them stew in their own filth, knowing that one day their sense of self preservation will kick in and they’ll at least get the knives off of the floor (or not—either way one day they’ll be living on their own, and if nothing else I can always get them chainmail socks for Christmas).
The point at which I draw the line, however, is when their rooms get so bad that they become miniature black holes, slowly and inexorably pulling everything in their reach into their maw. Things like forks. And towels. (Or, in the weird mutation that seemed to be happening in Clyde’s room, some sort of towel/fork transporter failure nightmare.)
Part of me