As a special gift when I was born, someone sent my parents a little silver spoon and mug set engraved with my initials. I don’t remember actually using them. They had to be polished to keep the silver shining, and I was very young when the spoon was seriously damaged after it got caught in the garbage disposal. I do remember that later we used the silver mug as a water dish for our parakeet because it fit perfectly in his cage, and Chippy saw his reflection and made dent marks all around the edge.
The first spoon I actually used to feed myself–and also to happily fling food with abandon–was wooden. It was a little round-tipped spoon intended to be the dipper in a honey bowl. Mom said I had the best time banging it on the table and my bowl, and there was no annoying clatter that a metal spoon would have made. I was the second child, so by then the novelty of cute baby things had been replaced by more practical, easily cleaned and audibly tolerated utensils and gadgets. The wooden spoon became a toy.
My mother was an excellent cook. For soups, sauces, batters, oatmeal and anything that needed stirring, she preferred to use wooden spoons. She also recycled old wooden spoons for stirring paint, propping up house plants, and marking the rows in her garden.
One undesirable use for wooden spoons was for corporal punishment. This might come as a surprise to those of you who’ve followed this blog and the sweet stories about my mother: her faith, intelligence, kindness and tenderness…and her love for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Mom was also a practical, common sense lady with a degree in early child development. Even though she was vehemently opposed to spanking or slapping any child, she saw the thickly diapered bottom of a toddler as the perfect “get your attention” place when we wouldn’t respond to repeated words or gentle hands turning us in the direction we were supposed to go.
David and I were in diapers and plastic pants during much of the same time, toddling and racing about, getting into things, pretending we didn’t hear our mom. One swat with the wooden spoon on our diapered behinds made enough noise to get our attention. But strangely, the spoons began to disappear. Mom said she looked everywhere–under tables and rugs, tucked in drawers and between sofa cushions, even in the trash–but she couldn’t find them.
I was past 3 and David was almost 5 when we moved from Ash Grove, Missouri to Fort Scot, Kansas. The movers came to load the furniture into the truck, and when they pulled the old upright piano away from the wall, my mother said she gasped. Behind the piano, back where only little hands could reach, were the five missing wooden spoons. One of the movers shook his head and asked if she did much cooking at the piano, and Mom laughed so hard that she had to sit down on one of the packing boxes.
She was still sitting there when we came in from the neighbor’s house and saw her holding the spoons. Mom said we suddenly became timid, nervously looking down at our shoes, up at the ceiling, and anywhere but at her. Finally David asked what she was going to do with the spoons.
She answered that we had become very good listeners and she was proud of us, so from now on we’d only use the spoons for cooking and baking. And when we got to the new house, she was going to bake a batch of oatmeal cookies, and she’d give us each a spoon to help stir the batter. And that is exactly what she did.
As a mother and a grandmother myself now, I love playing the piano, and I also love oatmeal cookies. Even though my mom has dementia and doesn’t remember this story of the musical spoons, I sometimes play CDs of piano music for her while we eat cookies and drink chocolate milk…just in case. You never know when music and cookies will trigger a happy memory.
The cup and the plate maybe ran away with the knife, but my brother and I hid the spoons. Many years later, Mom’s great-grandchildren used these wooden spoons as picture holders in pre-school.