Ask my oldest son, Ford, or my husband, Dustin, what they had for lunch the day we drove to Newport, Rhode Island, last year for April vacation, and they will probably remember. They’d also tell you what was playing on the radio and which movie the family had most recently seen together. Ford could probably tell you which shirt he had on.
Ask either of them what they had for lunch today, and you’ll get blank stares.
For years, I blamed Dustin’s forgetfulness on his maleness. Not fair, I know. But the stereotypical image of a husband forgetting his anniversary or wife’s birthday fit so nicely. Maybe they are all like this, I thought.
And yet, Dustin’s forgetfulness for some things (I once had to drive to the squadron to bring him his shoes) and memory for other things (he remembers that when I was in fourth grade I always ate the corners of my sandwiches first) is really perplexing. He can tell you the name of a substitute teacher he had once in kindergarten, but he can’t remember where he parked at the mall.
Once Ford began to show some of the same tendencies, I blamed it on his and Dustin’s intelligence. For a while, the three smartest people I knew were my dad, Dustin and Ford. Two of them have trouble programming their phones and one of them took more years than necessary to learn how to tie his shoes. All of them understand quantum physics, they delight in talking about gravity and black holes and they’d have a fighting chance in the history category on Jeopardy.
Still, don’t ask them where they put their keys.
When Owen, our second son, came along, this phenomenon could no longer be blamed on being “too smart” for regular things. Owen is smart, too, and he knows where he left his socks this morning. Owen taught himself to tie his shoes. Owen doesn’t accidentally start talking in French.
The other day, Owen and I sat at the kitchen table, minding our own business, while Ford and Dustin made themselves lunch. I was reading a magazine and in the back of my mind thinking about how grateful I am that Ford is old enough to cook. He was even making lunch for our youngest son, Lindell. I had just unlocked a new level of parenthood.
There was a lot of commotion in the kitchen as Ford and Dustin bumped into one another and argued about the efficacy of heating water past its boiling point. Owen, like me (it’s true!), is a person of few words. Unlike me, however, Owen is cool. He and I exchanged glances at the table. Owen doesn’t like chaos or making much ado about nothing. He uses the exact words necessary to make his point. I smiled at him.
And then it happened.
“I’ve lost the frozen ravioli,” Ford said.
“Have you looked in the cabinets,” Dustin asked, as if losing a bag of frozen food wasn’t alarming.
Owen and I looked at each other again. The commotion in the kitchen escalated. I tried not to intervene. I’ve helped Dustin and Ford find many things — keys, wallets, shoes, homework — but I preferred to believe that losing a 24-ounce bag of frozen ravioli was not possible. Eventually, however, they beckoned.
“We’ve lost a bag of frozen ravioli!”
No, not possible, you say. No one just loses a bag of food during the span of 10 minutes and without having left the room.
Owen sauntered calmly out of the kitchen, but I had to stay. Someone had to find the ravioli before it melted. Someone had to find the ravioli before it rotted, too, because that was actually on Ford and Dustin’s list of options: just forget about it, and eventually the smell will lead us to the lost ravioli.
I searched in upper cabinets, lower cabinets, the trashcan, the pantry, the refrigerator, the sink. The bag of ravioli — all 24 ounces of it — had seemed to disappear, a situation that Ford and Dustin quickly tried to explain with time-and-space relativity.
No, not here, not now. In my kitchen, things don’t slip into another dimension. And when something boils, it’s hot. I don’t care what heating it further does or does not do. I may not remember what I did on this date last year, but I don’t lose 24 ounces of ravioli.
About 45 minutes later, I found the ravioli in the bread drawer. No one had any explanation for why it would be in there. They had moved on and made something else for lunch. Owen, in his own room now, had escaped the madness.
So I was alone, holding a bag of now room-temperature ravioli, wondering why my talents — ones like this — never did register on the SAT.
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She may be reached at facebook.com/Sarah.is.Smiley.