According to Richard Dawkins, who first coined the word meme in 1976, the term is derived from the Greek word mimëma, meaning ‘something imitated.’ Memes can be dispersed vertically from parents to children, or horizontally spread through means like the media and peers. And of course, memes can be spread via a 14-year-old for whom repetition and imitation are basic needs.
You’ve heard about Georgia’s love of toilets left on the street for garbage pick-up and her deep affection for a toppled-over chair in any setting. She doesn’t just find these things sort of funny — she finds them limitlessly funny. She takes them in and carries them with her. Not just for a few minutes or hours or days. No, I’m talking years here. Years.
They become part of her, and her ongoing schtick. She adds her own text to her memes and they become living things.
About a year ago at Georgia’s previous school, someone dropped a fork in the cafeteria. We think it was Finnegan, but I’m not convinced (more on this later). But you know all about a fork dropping in a crowded cafeteria. It happens. You’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve even lived it. Utensils and plates of food placed precariously on a slippery cafeteria tray while you manoeuvre around tables and chairs to find a place. One slight lean to the left or right and the balance you carefully achieved is destroyed and your plate veers sideways and something (yes, perhaps your fork) plummets to the ground with an ominous clang.
That noise – the sound of something being dropped — is like music to Georgia’s ears. For her, it’s a teaser for a wonderful slapstick film or the whisper of suggestion that total, utterly fabulous chaos may be imminent.
This fork — the fork that was dropped a year ago — lives on in the discourse of our home. It only takes five minutes after Georgia has woken up for her to look at me earnestly while putting on her sock and whispering, “Finnegan dropped the fork!” This is followed by a bout of choking laughter.
Georgia is now at a new school without Finnegan, and plenty has happened in her life since then. And yet, the dropped fork is as fresh in her mind as the breakfast you’ve just eaten. She has taken the meme and made it a part of our daily lives. And oh, yes — she’s worked it. She enters most rooms proclaiming, “Hey, Finnegan dropped a fork!!!” and then laughing a Dr. Evil kind of laugh.
The original fork report associated the dropped fork with Finnegan. But in the ensuing year, as she walks through the house laughing and mumbling away to whoever is listening, she has named almost everyone she knows as the fork-dropper.
In her mind, Grandpa or the Ossington bus driver dropping the fork is just as funny as Finnegan or even “a total stranger” (her newest addition to the repertoire). As you know, we’re learning about strangers and she’s managed to figure out that although we know far less about strangers than our friends and family, we can imagine that they have the timelessly sublime ability to Drop. A. Fork.
She’s added a few new bits and pieces of text to the original meme. It’s not just that, “Finnegan dropped a fork!” but also, “…It wasn’t his felt.” I wondered why fabric craft supplies were now part of the story, and then figured it out. I suspect her lovely teacher Dave decided to address all the dropped forks directly, and added the bit about how accidents aren’t anyone’s fault.
Georgia is always on the lookout for new items that have been dropped that can be substituted.
In her communication book last week, Dave reported: “Georgia found it difficult to focus today. She was unmotivated this morning until she helped with the recycling. A can was dropped.” Oh, Dave — I feel your pain. Georgia came home that night like someone who won the lottery. With a bright face, she yelled out (before the school bus doors even opened): “A can dropped!!!”
Toppling to the ground, echoing with tinny goodness on the hard school floor, the dropped can brought yet another dimension to her meme. Forks, spoons, cups, cans — it’s all potential fodder! Even with our opposable thumbs, we humans are a clumsy species and Georgia is on the watch for it.
I silently dropped a cotton ball the other day (no noise equals no fun, right?) but no, I was wrong. She was bent over with gut-wrenching laughter and found herself completely unable to focus on anything else for a ridiculously long time.
I estimate that I’ve spent probably 30 hours of the last year of my life talking about the many versions of a dropped fork (and about 10 more hours telling her firmly that I do not want to talk about the dropped fork anymore). In the world of memes, though, I’ve decided that’s maybe not so bad. I can easily find 200 hours of “lolcats” on one website. I challenge you to admit just how many hours you’ve spent on pictures and videos of Grumpy Cat. And yes, hey girl, you know that it’s absolutely okay with me that you have allocated hours of your precious workday reading Ryan Gosling memes.
The fork meme lives on at our house. And I admit, we’re just a little more careful that we used to be when moving utensils from the dishwasher to the drawer. And when it happens, we roll our eyes and feign stern looks at the inevitable discussion of the dropped fork. We try (and fail) to distract her. We direct conversation elsewhere.
All fruitless efforts. There will always be another dropped fork, another dropped can, another toppled-over chair. The first sighting of a toppled-over chair was four years ago at our previous house. We still have conversations about the “upside-down chair at the old house,” and it’s as fresh as ever. We have pictures of chairs in her life that have been toppled over placed in photo albums and carefully archived on iPads. No fork pictures yet — but never say never.
I figure that one day, as a mind-blowing birthday present, we should stage a performance piece and film it. Here’s the scene: A dropped fork lands, along with a can, on a toppled-over chair placed beside a toilet on the street waiting for garbage pick-up.
Best. Gift. Ever.