We‘ve started bringing a large kitchen towel with us to the dinner table each night. By dinner‘s end, it is usually full of most everything I‘ve made, and sometimes extra. My younger children don‘t really get napkin etiquette very well, and the towel spends its evening being passed around from one spill to another.
My 3-year-old will attempt a request for the towel at the slightest drop of her food anywhere. “Dad,” she‘ll quietly say, “there is a drop of milk here. I need the towel.“ During this sentence her voice has gone from quiet and calm to high shrilled squeaking, with a great deal of panic thrown in. I know the panic is “thrown in“ with much deliberation, as this child is not afraid of a little dirt. She can smear lotion all over the carpet with the best of them. The best I can figure is she‘s working towards a career in Hollywood.
This towel has had its share of woes, too. Our one-year-old lets us know she‘s done eating by starting to see how far the remaining food on her high chair tray will fly through the air. Sometimes she throws for distance, sometimes fastest release. Once in a while she‘ll go for height, but has learned the hard way that what goes up also comes down. She, of course, believes herself quite hilarious, and will laugh and laugh at our efforts to thwart her. I‘m quite certain she thinks we want her to throw her food across the dining room. I am convinced she believes this to be the proper way to let everyone know you are done with dinner.
The mysterious thing about this small jewel of a child is that when she‘s done eating at the table, you couldn’t pry her mouth open with the jaws of life. Once taken out of the high chair though, the previously flung food finds new appeal as floor food. She‘ll race you the minute her feet hit the floor to find any tiny morsel the towel might have missed picking up. Yes, I‘ll admit it, she has eaten an ant before in her search for floor gourmet.
My five-year-old uses the towel as a sort of rescue and recovery tool. Food will somehow slip away from him, and the towel will seek it out, pick it up, clean it off, and become a utensil for popping it into his mouth. We have witnessed spaghetti be resurrected from certain garbage-can death through the miracle of this towel‘s restorative powers. This kitchen towel of ours has become privy to some of the great lessons of parenthood, lessons we all know well: don‘t feed your children strangely colored foods; don‘t expect that because they ate it yesterday, they‘ll eat it today; don‘t hope that tonight will be the night they don‘t need a lid on their cup of milk just because all the lids are dirty; and don‘t try to tell yourself that you might get through the day without sweeping. All things every parent has heard before. Somehow though, do you really ever believe all the things everyone tells you?Perhaps the day will come when that kitchen towel sits idly through dinner, and goes back to its place in the clean towel drawer after dinner, to be used for some other purpose, but until then, the towel stays. It sits at our table as a reminder of where we are in our lives. It lays quietly on the table and somehow shouts out the message, “This house is not safe for amateurs. Do not attempt entry, and do not mingle with the local population. Interact at your own risk.“ This towel doesn‘t scare me. Bring it on.