Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Murder decks and forks with authority; or, things I associate with my in-laws

A few years ago, my in-laws had an above-ground pool in their backyard. My father-in-law built a gorgeous deck out from the door and around part of the pool, and when we went to visit, he wasn't quite finished. The railings weren't in place, so for the entire weekend, everyone constantly reminded my son to be careful on the deck. I think he was around six at the time.

After days be being told by every adult, including me, not to run, jump, sit, stand, walk, or lay down too close to the edge, my son was pretty much only taking the middle-most route when he traveled too and from the pool.

After a few days, Chris and Tucker went out to swim and I decided to sit on the deck and watch them. During this time, my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and father-in-law were working on turning a shed in the corner of the yard into a cottage, so there were people scattered throughout the yard.

I sat down on one of the deck chairs as Chris tossed Tucker around in the pool, and that tiny moment turned into one of those awful slow-motion sequences that is fraught with slow-waving hands and a deep, low-tempo voice saying, "Nooooooooooooooo." Or possibly, "Aghhhhhhhhhhh." In my case, it might have gone down in complete silence, like an artsy movie; I remember the sounds of splashing water and laughter and hammers hitting nails, and then I remember silence.

The chair slid back just an inch or two; the back of the chair dipped down, found no support. I gripped the sides of the chair, as if staying with the crashing vehicle would be better than ejecting. The chair and I tumbled backward into a drop that was over four feet. I hit the ground with my shoulders, flipped at least once, and came to rest in damp grass without any breath. My first thought was that I could be paralyzed; my second thought was that someone had to have seen the entire ridiculous thing.

Of course, there were numerous witnesses, and plenty of merriment regarding the fact that they should have been directing all their warnings about decks and railings to me instead of the six-year-old. Next time we visited, my father-in-law proudly showed me the installed railings.

A few times during the last eight years, I've heard the term "fork with authority." It's something said while setting the table, and it refers to forks that are larger or heavier than some of the others. When laying the table with a mixed set of silverware, one apparently gives the "forks with authority" to the men.

Before anyone starts crying feminism in the comments, it seems to be more about physical comfort than chauvinism. The men have bigger hands. My husband prefers the forks with larger grips because they fit his hand better, and apparently so does his father and possibly his brothers.

My husband also prefers to sit at the head of the table because it gives him room on either side. He doesn't like to be scrunched up between people, and honestly, no one really wants him scrunched up next to them while he's wielding a fork with authority.  I think his dad probably feels the same way, because when we have them over, Chris and his dad occupy the ends of the table.

Also, probably my husband likes, at least a little, being the head of the table.

A few years after the incident on the pool deck, we were visiting my in-laws in their home in a new town. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law also live there, and they'd recently bought a new home, so we planned to see the home and have dinner with them.

Their house is a bit of a rambling, unique place. One of the design elements is that the dining room steps down into a living space; they had a large table set up in the dining area. Before dinner, I was sitting at the head of the table speaking to Chris's aunt when his brother came over and said, "You know, I can't let you sit there for dinner."

Having been well-trained regarding proper place settings and forks with authority, I jokingly said, "Oh, I know. Don't worry, I'm well-trained; I'll move so one of the men can have the head of the table."

He looked at me as if I'd just spouted nonsense and said, "What? No, I mean because the chair backs up to the ledge and you might fall."

It'd been a few years; apparently my clumsiness is memorable.

All of these things happened some years ago, but the memories were brought back by the warnings in this blog post about Mid-Century Modern homes that will kill your children.


  1. Nice. Forks with authority...I may have to co-opt that for my house. Husband hates using small forks: he says they're for salad and children. I believe he means they're for eating salad and for children to use to eat, not that small forks are meant for eating children. But who knows?

    In-laws are full of fun, aren't they? My brother-in-law (before he was officialy my BIL) told me once that Husband was lucky to have me. Because I have "blow job lips." Whatever that means.

    Yup, he was drunk. And nope, to this day he will not admit saying it. Snicker.

  2. Bwaahahaha. Thanks for clarifying about the forks meant for children. Because around here, that's a totally necessary clarification.

    My in-laws are actually very lovely people, so I'm pretty lucky I think. I don't remember any drunken and inappropriate comments. Although one Thanksgiving, I was eating cupcake with mint icing and I asked my mother-in-law if she liked mint. (Because I was going to share with her if so). She looked at me really weird and said, "What???" I asked again. She said, "Of course I like men! I've sort of surrounded myself with them." (Because she has a husband and three sons).

  3. I could likely write a full blog just with in-law inappropriateness, but I love them dearly and they're awesome people. The stuff that pops out of their mouths, though...lordy.

    Heehee...mint men!

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