Napkins? Give Me Two, Please

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Napkins were a necessity on our table when I was growing up. My father was annoyed if a napkin was not included with the assortment of amenities that he expected to find on the table like salt, pepper, sugar and margarine. When I ate at someone else’s home, if I wasn’t provided with a napkin, that’s one thing that quiet, little Laurie wasn’t afraid to ask for.

I don’t remember being overly sloppy as a child, but things change. Now, rare is the meal that I don’t spill something on myself. Those who know me and understand that I care about my appearance that make sure that I have a napkin… maybe two.

I’m not sure just when the klutziness started to creep in. Maybe I started to hurry a little too much sometimes or it’s when I’m a little stressed. The incident that stands out (and my brothers haven’t let me forget it) was some 20 years ago when I had lunch at the local Dairy Queen with my two brothers. I had trouble with my ketchup packet. When it finally yielded to my pulling and fiddling with the dotted lined corner that’s suppose to tear, it sort of exploded.

That mysterious “Murphy’s Law” that has us all wearing white when we eat spaghetti was in full force that day. My white blouse had huge splotches of ketchup stain that I wore back to work even though I dabbed off as much as I could in the DQ ladies’ room. My brothers hooted and howled at me and it seems like from then on I’ve had trouble eating “neat.”

When Mark entered my scene, my spilling episodes became more consistent. It always seems like he’s looking at me when I dribble or drop whatever it is. There is no way I am able to discreetly cover it up. He makes light of it and hands me an extra napkin. His own remains almost untouched. For a big person, he is a dainty eater.

We have tried to teach our girls to eat slowly, not talk with their mouths full, lean over their plates, and, among all the other table manners, use a napkin. We hear them complain about the disgusting way some of their friends at school eat. Yet, for all Mark’s stern diligence, our kid’s manners seem to be falling away, too. It’s not that we care any less, but maybe we aren’t taking the time to pay attention like we did when they were little. Of all the things we hope the girls remember, they rarely forget to get me my napkin.

I’m not worrying about my plight. I quietly accept the fact that I have to work harder than most at being tidy. I’ll keep trying, and everyone else, keep handing me napkins.

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A great book about manners for big and little kids to read together is Perfect Pigs by Marc Brown, creator of Arthur Read and his world of animal people. It reminds you to excuse yourself from the table and to always help clear!

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