For the bulk of my upbringing, this was officially a garbage disposal scraper. It sat on the back of the sink and was used for the sole purpose of pushing unpleasantries to their demise in the destructive drain down under.
Ours was Tupperware, tinged a dingy cream color, and battle scarred with bite marks from countless close encounters with the blades below. My mother had ordered it out of peer pressure at a party, ultimately relenting because it was actually an affordable item that appealed both in price and potential purpose.
With five children, she sought to ensure the security of all fifty fingers. So this utensil was used to add distance to the drain, while still keeping us responsible for our refuse as we cleared our plates and placed them in the dishwasher.
And so it sat on the sink, without challenge, diligently doing its designated duty for close to a decade.
Until, I was startled out of my senses during seventh grade home ec when my kitchen partner plunged such a paddle into our imitation Orange Julius before I could stop her and proceeded to scrape out every last scrap before swallowing a huge swig!
Nausea thrust through my throat in a reflex so severe, I was certain I would soon be in need of that very garbage disposal scraper to clean up the surge that was sure to spew forth at any second.
I swallowed hard galvanizing against my gag as this girl slipped a straw into my glass and slid it before me. She wasn’t a close friend, so I didn’t want to cause any embarrassment, but there was no way I was drinking that disgusting, septic sludge!
I looked around for a way out and was shocked to see everyone, at every station, scraping and slurping away as if what they were doing was perfectly sanitary.
So I stared down at the potentially infectious straw as my teacher approached.
“Is everything okay?”
I was the only one not delightfully downing our class’s concoction.
So I stepped aside and spoke. Recounting in full detail, the horror of how the whole lot of them had dipped the disposal scrapers into their desserts. And then with great satisfaction, slurped until their straws rattled on the remnants.
Suddenly, amusement slipped across her smile as she secretly shared the utensil’s true title and intent.
A rubber spatula.
Imagine that! I had only seen it one way, my entire life, up to that point. Limited by my personal perceptions, experience and upbringing. What my mother alone had lead me to believe, about this one particular thing.
Did that eliminate every other good thing she taught me in our time together in the kitchen? No. Did it destroy the memories of standing at the counter, hip high to her, laughing and loving and learning as I “helped?” No.
Does it mean that a rubber spatula can never be anything more than a garbage disposal scraper and I have to fight anybody who tells me otherwise in an effort to defend my mother’s honor? No! Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous!
People are imperfect, no matter how loving. And the things that they teach us are as well. Sometimes, just wrong. And sometimes, just flat out nasty. And that can be hard to accept. But we have to. Especially the things that are far larger than anything we can hold in our hand. Because it is in our hands. All of it. And it’s up to us to test and re-examine all that we have been taught both on purpose and as in some cases, inadvertently.
So today when I baked, I used the rubber spatula, scraping the sides of the bowl and smoothing the batter into the Bundt pan because it’s a rubber spatula. That’s what it really is and that’s what it’s really for, regardless of whatever else I may have heard. I don’t use it on my dirty disposal. Never have. I took what I learned, moved forward, and made something pretty sweet with it.
And I still love my mother, just the same. Because she’s lovable. She’s done a lot of great things in her lifetime. Accomplished so much. And loved me until I can never forget it. That’s her legacy.
But if in order to ensure your legacy, I have to dig around in the dregs, dabbing at discards and slopping through sewage in search of something to salvage before it all disappears down the drain…anything not absolutely awful…if that’s all that’s left to remember you by…then…well…to put it mildly…forget you.
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