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When my sisters and I were growing up, my mom saw only two possible life paths for us. We were either going to be bank robbers or achieve something significant that would get us invited to the White House. There was no average life on the agenda for me. I was going to jail or having dinner with the President. (Note: In those days, moms hadn’t yet learned to say to their little girls, “Someday you could be President.” The pinnacle of a girl’s achievement was simply being invited to dinner with him.)
Mom took great measures to propel us down the path to success. Church three times a week and heavy Bible memorization, would keep us from robbing banks, while etiquette courses would prepare us for an invitation to the White House. She took Etiquette 101 and 102 at the local college and then used her knowledge to teach us things like: wait until everyone is served before taking your first bite, start with the outside fork and don’t use your fingers to fish pickles from the jar.
Recently, I realized that all of her hard work and effort didn’t exactly pay off. I attended a dinner two weeks ago that involved sitting at a round table with eleven other people. The problem with a round table is that everything is on a curve, so each place setting sort of blends into the next. I knew my forks and spoons with no problem, but which wine glass was mine? Mom didn’t drink alcohol, so we never learned that one. Of course, by the time you have your second glass, no one cares. And why haven’t they created a new standard for place settings that includes a spot for your cell phone? This was a struggle for everyone at the table.
Last week, my seventeen-year-old daughter called from Australia where she has been for the past seven months. Australia has to be the most low-key, relaxed continent on the face of the earth, and yet she said to me, “It would be a good idea if you taught my little siblings how to eat with a fork and knife. They eat everything here with a fork. Even French fries. It took me forever to figure out how to do it without looking awkward.”
Okay, really? She’s saying I never taught her to eat with a fork? That can’t be right.
The next morning, hubby and I took the kids out for breakfast. Six-year-old son ordered an omelet, which he held in place with his hand while using his knife to cut it into triangular pieces. And then he proceeded to eat his omelet like a pizza.
“Use your fork,” hubby admonished.
“This is how I eat omelets,” son shot back.
Hubby looked at me, and I sheepishly admitted, “Every morning I make him an omelet, and he eats it like a pizza.”
About that time, we glanced over at seven-year-old daughter who had rolled her pancake like a taquito, and was happily dipping it into the syrup.
I don’t know when I fell off the etiquette bandwagon. My mother would be so disappointed. I’m just hoping my kids grow up to be bank robbers. That way they’ll never get invited to the White House.