Cut, Twirl, or Eat With Your Hands

We have Red Plate traditions in my family.  The Red Plate is exactly as it sounds. I imagine there’s a great many of you who have eaten on the very Red Plate in this picture.


In our family, you may be Red Plated if you have had a particularly extraordinary day, if you’ve achieved a grand goal, if your report card is outstanding, if you nailed an audition, if it’s your birthday, or if your room is clean.

Age is not a factor; anyone can be honored with a meal on the Red Plate.

If you’re a dinner guest in our home for the first time, you’ll probably get Red Plated: as you eat from the Red Plate, we get to take turns asking questions so we can get to know you better.  Questions may come from anyone at the table, and they range from “What is your favorite color?” to “What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?”

Age is not a factor; anyone can be honored with a meal on the Red Plate.

Fifteen years ago (or maybe closer to twenty… oh my word), my brother, our Swedish foreign exchange student, and I each had separate dates for the Homecoming dance at our high school.  It was Thursday, the dance was on Saturday, and our family tradition stated that a person would have a Red Plate meal before dating any one of the Lott Kids.

All three guests came on one weeknight, we ate on red Chinette, and it was a fest of questions and answers and one of the best nights in my family history.

For guests, the traditional Red Plate meal has been spaghetti.  And this is why I write to you today: to discuss the merits and preferences of cutting spaghetti.

I come from a family of twirlers.  Snag a few noodles with the tines of your fork, twirl it in the round tummy of your spoon, and spin yourself a bite.

It’s actually part of our family culture, I’ve learned; not every family twirls.  On a beach vacation years ago, we had a pasta buffet for dinner for the 21 of us in our beach house.  As you looked down the table, the families were divided.  Without knowing any of us cousins, you could have arranged us in sibling groups by the way we at our noodles.

Of course there’s also a third option: to serve spaghetti with no silverware.  To eat with your hands.  This is good to do once a year or so.  On bath night.

Twirling is kind of a rite of passage.  You know you’re growing up when you don’t need anyone to cut your spaghetti for you any longer.

In fact, while my mom was traditionally choosing spaghetti to serve to our friends, believing it was a simple meal that nearly anyone could enjoy, we later learned that this was in fact the most intimdating menu option.

The night of the three Homecoming dates, it turns out they were each exchanging glances as they cut their spaghetti, feeling thankful to not be isolated as the only person at the table using a knife.

Robb and I were married before he finally said, “Seriously, I don’t know how you do that.  You all do it.  Spaghetti is a big deal at your house.”

My kids are twirlers.  (The key is to only take a few noodles at a time.  You think you want a lot, but really only two or three.  They spin into quite a mouthful, actually.)

We had a Red Plate dinner just this week, and Tyler was teaching the grownup beside him how to twirl a spaghetti noodle.

And so, I ask you, do you cut or twirl?

Strep Never Sounded So Good

Tucker had a lump sticking out the side of his neck.  Walnut sized.  Noticeable and concerning.

Very concerning.

I tried to minimize the concern, since Tucker’s mind always goes to extreme diagnoses and imminent death.  But I can’t say mine didn’t go there too.  And I wonder if he’ll ever get to a place in his life with the naivete of taking things in stride.

Turns out, it was a swollen lymph node due to infection.  He had strep throat.

The pediatrician said every single parent’s mind goes straight to “The Big C” when they see a lump protruding  from anywhere glandular in the child’s body.  (Count me among the majority.)  He said 99.99% of the time, a swollen lymph node is nothing to worry about, and one way I can tell is that a lymph node will fluctuate in size.  A cancerous anything will just get worse, if left untreated.

So the lymph node can stay enlarged for months, with still no need for concern.   Well, then.  This I can handle.

I’ve lost the privilege of believing it won’t happen to us.  It has.  It could.

A friend said, “A family like yours deserves a free pass.  You’ve done your time.”  His family is nine months into a battle with their daughter’s brain cancer.  His family deserves a free pass too.

Life doesn’t give it very many of those.

Strep has never sounded so good to me.