The story of the asylum seekers continues to unfold. After a year of pandemic/bureaucratic stagnation and frustration, things are starting to move on some fronts. Jeb, the youngest got a renewed work permit for two years. Reluctantly he had agreed to get vaccinated and now he learns that his employer will reward him with $100 for that. Work requires a car and he is newly licensed, the only one of the three who has made it to that step. In a rush to get back to work he rushed to find a car for himself on Facebook. That did not go well and he is out quite a bit of money. However, kind souls in the Notre Dame network offered our three a 2003 Corolla in good condition, absolutely free. Jeb is the only one who can drive it so it is his for now until the others can drive. The three of them are going places in it.
Gradually they are preparing to fly the Pink Lady nest. The nest is getting a little full. Mama bird is getting tired of bringing home prodigious amounts of food. Mom and Dad are getting tired of the nightly aroma of ginger and garlic as the three of them prepare the prodigious amounts of food. And Mom is definitely tired of losing good knives to careless usage. A few months ago Ben broke the tip off my Wusthof chef’s knife by using it to pry apart frozen chicken thighs. That one, a gift long ago from my friend Carolyn and my first good knife ever—the one that inspired me to give good knives as wedding gifts—had sentimental value. Seeing its broken tip made me very sad.
Since the knife was still usable I handed it over to the three of them for their exclusive use. I replaced it with a beautiful Japanese chef’s knife that was a bit lighter and a joy to use. And I made one *unbreakable* rule for the kitchen: Don’t. Touch. My. Knife. Don’t wash it, don’t put it away, and, above all, don’t use it.
I repeated this rule in a kind and joking way whenever I caught anybody touching my knife. It happened. They didn’t use it but they cannot resist cleaning up the kitchen (a wonderful trait, normally) and I often found my knife in the dishrack if I hadn’t cleaned up after myself. I did not want it there with the other utensils.
Last Monday evening, as Vic and I were watching, appropriately, Master of None, Jeb came to me with a somber face and an object wrapped in a blue t-shirt. As I unwrapped it he began an elaborate apology in the lowest, most self-abasing tone of voice I have ever heard. (It makes me shudder to think how he learned to express shame so effectively.) Mum I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. When I saw my beautiful knife with a big chunk out of the middle of its delicate blade (the chunk was included in the package), I understood the reason for his groveling. And I responded with quite the temper tantrum. How did this happen? (I was cutting yams and I didn’t see what knife I had.) How could you do this? How many times have I said, Don’t Touch My Knife?!! Yes Mum I’m so sorry so sorry.
As I yammered on about paying attention and how I have no rules about using the kitchen except Don’t Touch My Knife and how much I paid for the knife, he handed me a carefully folded paper with a sorrowful message of apology penciled on it. Inside was a sheaf of bills, the exact price of the knife. He’d looked it up on Amazon. But before my steam had exhausted itself I started extrapolating to what-ifs and responsibility in all areas of life including driving a car. In other words, I really poured it on. Jeb is not the most attentive person and doesn’t always think things through. Nevertheless, the kid had prepared carefully to face my wrath and he took it without flinching.
We have both recovered. He has assured me it will never happen again and I believe him. I immediately ordered a replacement for my knife, plus a much less expensive cleaver for all of us to use when cutting squash and cassava and chicken. Jeb says he doesn’t understand why he didn’t understand what I meant by the Don’t Touch My Knife rule. He jokes that maybe he thought I was speaking German. He says he understands now.
Maybe it was this incident that caused the three of them to revisit the question of how long they want to continue this living arrangement, which has been, knives aside, quite comfortable and advantageous for all of us. When Ben and Jeb helped with a moving gig in the neighborhood and learned that the nice little house would be going on the market, Ben, always the networker, put us in touch with the owner. Months ago we’d looked into buying a house to rent out to the three of them but nothing worked out and we hadn’t pursued it actively, as their work situation continued to be highly unstable. But things are gradually falling into place. Long story short, we’ve put in an offer.
Houses are moving fast. We’ll know soon whether we’ll get this one and the fledgings will move out on their own. When that happens, we’ll miss them a lot, truly.