97: The Spoon

97: The Spoon

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

The Spoon

Be realistic: Plan for a miracle.

~Bhagwan Shree Rainees

My life has been full of surprises, but none quite like the surprise that came in the mail on the last day of July in 1999. That was the day my forgotten childhood was returned to me—courtesy of a young stranger blessed with curiosity and intent on doing a good deed.

It arrived in a large manila envelope from the Social Security Administration. I thought it was just another notice about benefits—until I saw the postmark: Batesville, Arkansas. Curious, I thought. I’ve lived in many places, but never Arkansas. The contents of the envelope were equally puzzling.

There were four enclosures. The first was a cover letter from Arlinda Gardner, Service Representative. “Dear Ms. Fader,” she wrote. “We are enclosing a letter which Kim Anderson has asked us to forward to you.”

Who in the world was Kim Anderson?

“Because of the circumstances, we agreed to forward the letter. However, we have not revealed your address and cannot disclose whether the letter has been delivered. You are free, therefore, to reply or not as you choose. You need not notify us of your decision.”

Now my curiosity was truly piqued. I turned my attention to the first item Ms. Gardner had included: a two-by-three-inch color photograph of a smiling young couple. A notation on the back identified the young blond woman as Kim Anderson, age eighteen, and the dark-haired young man as Kris Holenbeck, age twenty, and noted that this was their engagement picture.

The photograph was attached to a neatly typed letter. In the upper right hand corner was a drawing of a stork holding the traditional bundled baby in its beak. “Strange choice of stationery for a newly engaged couple,” I thought.

“Dear Ms. Sonia,” the letter began. “My name is Kimberly Roneau Anderson.” Kimberly proceeded to tell me about herself. And then this intriguing statement: “About thirty years ago, my mother was on Manasquan Beach and found a baby spoon. You might wonder what this has to do with you. On this beautifully engraved silver spoon were your name, birthplace, birth date and time, and your weight. I am curious,” Kimberly wrote, “about how the spoon got lost, and I would like to know more about you.”

I slipped the third enclosure out from behind Kimberly’s letter. It was a photocopy of the spoon. I had not seen that spoon for more than sixty years. The sight of it triggered something in my head, or perhaps my heart — a surge of extreme joy, inexplicably mixed with a deep sense of sorrow.

I lost both my parents within three years before I was twenty-one, my father to heart disease, my mother to cancer. Their lingering deaths, plus the need to create a safe, stable home for my eleven-year-old brother, triggered a kind of amnesia in me that not only blocked the pain-filled memories connected with my parents’ passing, but all the happy memories that came before.

Through my tears, I studied the picture. The spoon handle was molded in the shape of a bespectacled stork poised on a brick chimney, holding a baby in its feathered wings. Engraved in the bowl of the spoon was a grandfather’s clock that indicated the time of my birth. My full name was there too, and the date and place of birth, as well as my length and my weight when I entered this world.

I turned my attention back to Kimberly’s letter. She wrote that she discovered the spoon in her mother’s silverware drawer. Her mother, who thirty years earlier had lived in New Jersey, told Kimberly she found the spoon one day while she was playing with Kimberly’s older sister on Manasquan Beach. Charmed by its design, she took it home, polished it, put it in her silverware drawer, and forgot about it. Then Kimberly found it one day when she was rummaging through the drawer for some serving pieces for her future married life.

When I called the number in the letter, Kimberly told me that she got the idea to go to the Social Security office from a movie in which the main character had traced someone that way. But, as Kimberly learned after taking the hour’s drive to the closest Social Security office, such things only happen in the movies. In real life, Social Security employees are forbidden by law to give out any information concerning private citizens.

That should have been the end of the story. However, perhaps impressed by Kimberly’s resourcefulness, or intrigued by her tale, Ms. Gardner agreed to help her. She told Kimberly if she would write a letter to me and bring it back, she would forward it.

It took Kimberly a month to compose her “perfect letter.” It was Arlinda Gardner’s idea to include a photocopy of the spoon.

Kim refused any money for returning my spoon, but she had mentioned that she was planning to have daisies, her favorite flower, at her wedding. I sent her a daisy-themed place mat and napkin set, along with a check, as a wedding gift. Her thank you note included an invitation to the wedding, which, unfortunately, I was unable to attend.

Having a stranger return something precious that had been missing more than half a century in itself qualifies as a miracle. What is truly remarkable, however, is the impact Kimberly’s curiosity and thoughtfulness has had on my life. That returned spoon unlocked a floodgate to sweet memories I thought I had lost forever.

The spoon and a picture of my mother holding me are now framed in a shadow box that hangs on my bedroom wall. I was about two years old when the picture was taken in front of a house “down the shore” my parents rented one summer. What happy days they were, filled with love and laughter; it was a precious part of my life I had sadly forgotten, until a young woman from Arkansas decided to look for the owner of a lost spoon.

How was the spoon lost? Manasquan Beach is about seventy miles from Atlantic City and Ventnor, where my parents rented their summer homes. It is possible, I suppose, that one day we took a drive up the coast, my mother brought the spoon along, and somehow it got lost. But then what?

Was the spoon buried in the sand all those years until Kimberly’s mother happened upon it? And what were the chances that of all the people at Social Security, Kimberly would end up talking to the one-in-a-million who would listen with compassion and help her? Then, there is the timing of her decision to try to return the spoon to its owner.

In the years after my parents’ death I was too busy surviving to think about my childhood. But six decades later, I found myself desperately trying to recall those forgotten years. Then, that envelope arrived with a picture of a spoon that opened up the floodgate to those precious lost memories. Every time I look at the spoon, or retell the story of its remarkable journey, my belief in miracles is renewed.

~Sunny Fader

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