Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Return of Mr. Mustachio

About a week before Christmas day, I got a package in the mail from my brother Andy. It was rectangular, wrapped in gold paper, and bearing a homemade card saying To: David a.k.a "The Forkmaster" From: Andy.

I was mystified. I knew that the title was a clue, but I couldn't figure out what it was referring to. Andy and Mike have called me many nicknames over the years, but I didn't remember The Forkmaster being one of them. I put the present under the tree and moved on with work and other things.

This morning, as we are plowing through our presents, the box circulates around to me and I am reminded of the mystery. The Forkmaster! What does it mean?

I tear open the package, open the box and find an object wrapped in paper, accompanied by a hand-written note. Obviously, I was expecting a fork or something related to eating. And still, it wasn't until I rolled the utensil out of the paper and into my hand that it all became clear.

Mr. Mustachio was back in my life again!


It was a stainless steel fork, a salad-sized fork to be more specific. And while you might not think it special to me it carried a great deal of childhood memories. Sitting around the dinner table with Mom and Dad, Mike, Andy, and Mary. Going camping in the summers in the North Georgia section of the Southern Appalachians. At various, unsuspecting times, Mr. Mustachio had been a part of it. He was a fork, but he had a particular design, with a bit of the tined area cut out in a Fleur-de-lis pattern that (to one of us) had looked like a mustache and tiny Van Dyke beard. And so, this fork was named Mustachio--but I particularly liked to formalize it to Mr. Mustachio.

I don't recall if Mr. M had similarly hirsute brethren. In my memory, he stood alone--the last swank soldier from some stylish era of dining in the distant past. I guess that Mom and Dad explained how he came to us, but I don't remember that either.

What I do remember is that Mr. Mustachio was special. Because we saw him as one-of-a-kind, it was a special event when he turned up. And whoever got to use him at any particular meal was honored in some mysterious way. (You can see that we had to find odd ways to entertain ourselves when cable wasn't prevalent, video games were rudimentary, and the best show on television was about a talking, super-intelligent car.) I remember him being a part of ordinary meals at home, but somewhere along the line, Mr. Mustachio got into our camping gear and that made him even more special. (As we usually camped once a year, so the opportunity to eat with him was lessened.)*

So, here was a family oddity. (Call it a tradition if you like, but it wasn't as set in stone and as regularized as what we usually think of as family traditions.) Some families try to catch each other unawares at the start of every month by saying the word "Rabbit." (True story, but not my family.) We had a special fork.

And well, it died off as we grew and moved away from home. I forgot all about Mr. Mustachio . . . mostly. Though I once explained the specialness of him to my kids once when we mixed in some different silverware to our regular set and a different set of fancily-engraved spoons became temporarily "special." But they didn't have the interest, or the pre-Internet focus, to turn it into something more than a momentary blip in their routine.

But today, they got to see Mustachio with their own eyes. They got to see how special he was and how jauntily his moustache cut-out made him a cut above the run-of-the-mill flatware. And he is MINE! Mine for a year.

For, you see, the letter explained that I am the keeper of Mustachio until next Christmas. And as The Forkbearer, I get to wield the special honor of Mustachio to whomever I want. After discussing it with Mary on the phone today, I think that Mustachio will be awarded around our family in the coming year to celebrate individual achievements or to acknowledge hard work. Or perhaps to brighten up a difficult day. And he will be well kept in Ohio during 2011. But as next year's holiday season arrives, I will have to pass on the role of Forkbearer to someone else in my family, where they can bask in Mr. Mustachio's glory for the next year.

How will I choose next year's recipient? I still haven't settled on a final criteria. (Feel free to contribute any suggestions you may have to help me with this the Comments.) Perhaps I will reward the person who is nicest to me during this year? Perhaps I will bestow it upon the person who needs cheering up the most? Or perhaps it's be whomever bribes me most effectively? Or maybe I'll just choose a name out of a hat. Only time and more thought can tell.

All I know is that I used Mr. Mustachio for the first time during our delicious Christmas Day afternoon feast. And it made the turkey that much more succulent, the stuffing that much more savory, and the fruit salad that much more fruity.

The year ahead is looking good, my friends.

*I verified most of these details with Mom and Dad earlier tonight in my Christmas phone call. There was only one. And we didn't use him all the time. (You're welcome.)

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