Everyone who knew Mack was very much aware of the fact that she not only loved food, but also that she could eat quite a large quantity of it. Regularly, she would annihilate an order of egg rolls and a plate of curry fried rice, finish off a full-sized bag of Funyuns during one episode of Parks and Recreation, drain a quart of Gatorade in seconds, or eat way more all-you-can-eat sushi than seemed humanly possible. Luckily for her, however, she was an athletic kid, possessed a lean nearly 5’10” frame, and had inherited those skinny McDermott genes. She also happily embraced and celebrated her appetite, and it was often the subject of her own self-deprecating humor.
I am not quite sure when it first happened—perhaps it was in middle school or early in high school—but on at least five or six separate occasions at different restaurants, Mack’s place setting at the table contained a serving fork instead of the typical dinner fork that all the other place settings at the table had. I remember very clearly how it happened the first time. Mack unwrapped her napkin, pulled out the serving fork, held it up in dramatic fashion and said, “Are they calling me fat?” Just as I thought she would ask for a regular fork, she announced that it was some kind of an omen and began using it to consume her meal. Afterwards, she stuck that fork in her pocket and brought it home. The second time a restaurant served her a large fork, Mack was absolutely convinced that the food gods were taking good care of her. She celebrated the arrival of the large utensil, used it to clean her plate and, of course, she brought it home. The third time it happened, we all agreed with her that this large-fork thing appeared to be more than a coincidence. And every time it happened thereafter, we were not surprised by it and we always had a good laugh over it. On every subsequent presentation of these large forks, Mack thanked the food gods, used the fork, and added it to her collection in our kitchen. At home, she always insisted on using these large forks, and she would become quite indignant if I failed to put one of them at her place at the table.
The week before she left for Spain, we were at Pier 1 Imports looking at chairs for our new dining room table, and Mack disappeared. As I was considering two upholstered chairs, which we finally purchased, my cell phone rang. I answered it, it was Mack, and she said that I must immediately meet her in the back right section of the store and see for myself the amazing wall art that was absolutely meant for her to have in her college apartment in Kirksville. I was annoyed that she was calling me from within the store, but this was typical Mack and I told her I would be there shortly. When I located her, she was holding a humongous fork. With great animated enthusiasm, she said that she believed that since there was no one else in the entire world besides herself who would actually want this type of wall art and that weird circumstances—one, that she was actually in a Pier 1 with parents at all; and two, that she had, even more oddly, wandered off to look at stuff—had conspired to make her aware of the existence of these wonderfully giant and shiny forks. Therefore, she was destined to own one. She needed one. She desperately wanted one. And, she proceeded to demand one, arguing that 70 bucks for such a glorious object was a bargain.
I suggested that she could choose the fork and skip the new clothes I was going to purchase for her to take to Spain. She paused, placed her hand on her chin and cast her eyes upward, as she often did when she was contemplating one of my questions. After a few seconds, she sighed, said she would choose the clothes…this time…but that when she returned from Spain, we would take up this issue once again. As a temporary consolation, she asked me to take a few pictures of her with this wonderful fork not only to document its magnificent existence but also to serve as a reminder to me that it would be a perfect Christmas gift.