Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I am reading this great book about writing, Bird by Bird, written by Anne Lamott. It was given to me by my friend, Kihm who's laugh I have the pleasure of hearing several times through out the work day. One of the chapters is about school lunches and how they define who your family is before your friends have a chance to see the craziness for themselves and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It's so true!

Way before I ever had friends over, my lunch told the world that I had a single working mother that didn't have a lot of money. My brown bag lunch at Our Lady of Lourdes sucked. My peanut butter and jelly sandwich was messy and kind of squished in the middle and never cut into cute little party squares. I got a piece of unpeeled fruit. Maybe a baggy of crackers or chips that were bordering being stale but nothing I was ever dying to get to the lunch room to eat. It's not that my Mom couldn't cook - she was and still is an amazing cook. I think it was more the frantic morning rush, getting three kids breakfast and off to school before she went to work and a lack of ingredients that resulted in my crappy lunch. I refuse to believe that she didn't make my sandwiches into party squares and let the grape jelly ooze out the sides because she didn't care. I also had to order milk from the milk cart. I hate milk. Hated it as a child. Hate it as an adult. So, not only did I have a messy lunch, I left the dimly lit dungeon of a cafeteria dehydrated and not able to get out of line on the way back to our classroom for a stop at the drinking fountain. Nuns didn't care about your thirst but they did care about orderly, quite, obedient children marching in straight lines. I'm typically not a bitter person but I wouldn't feel the least bit sorry today if I heard that Sister Priscilla died with someone holding a glass of water just out of her reach.

Gina Cruz was my first friend of a different ethnicity. Her parents were from the Phillipines and she had the lovliest, long, black shiny hair. Most girls envied her hair but I honed in on the red and black checkered thermos that her Mom would fill with Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup. Sometimes she'd switch things up with Chicken Noodle but it was mostly Chicken with Stars. Oh God, I wanted that thermos so bad. I'm sure I told my Mom about it and am also sure that getting me a checkered thermos never made her list of things to do.

My dark haired Filipino friend moved away in the third grade and while I can't remember what her face looked like, i've never forgotten about that thermos or the way she would pick the celery pieces out and set them inside the lid.
For the record, I never did get the thermos.

Despite the emotional trauma of my my everyday lunch there was one that I could count on to be spectacular. My Grandmothers. Spending the night with my Grandparents was always a blast but if you spent the night on a school night you had the joy of going to school with the best, kick ass lunch in the entire grade. The perfectly folded, overstuffed brown bag would get mouth watering stares way before the contents were ever carefully laid out in front of me. The sandwich, Pepperoni or Cappicola on a crusty piece of Columbus bread, wrapped perfectly in wax paper was always followed prepackaged junk food and a Twinkie or whole candy bar for dessert. It was a greasy bit of heaven in a paper bag and a fond memory that I have for pleasure of having for the rest of my days.

Now it's my turn to make the lunches. Lily is not one of those kids who ever wants to eat the school lunch so she has the coolest polka dot BUILT lunch bag, SIGG water bottle and at least three thermos's to choose from. I'm always pushing the hot soup option but she's not that into it. I cringe when she spends the night with Joe and he sends her to school with the three year old Princess lunch bag but she doesn't seem bothered by it. I secretly hope that my lunches are way better than his. I'll bet you he doesn't fold the napkin and put cute little notes on the top like I do. Maybe she needs one squished up PB&J to appreciate the beauty of my carefully planned out arrangements from the proper food groups? Either way, i'm confident that no one knows that her lunch comes from a broken home.

Prelude to the stolen duct tape

I look back now and know why my Father is the quiet, reserved man that he is today. Part of it is genetics and the other part is fear. He grew up with a stoic German Father and somehow ended up with my vivacious Italian Mother and had three daughters by the time he was 25. My Mother unsucessfully tried to beat the stoicism out of him with a frying pan and what was left was deadened with cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

He would come home from his job as a tool maker, unmoved by joy or grief and go through the motions of the evening. Eventually they divorced and us girls moved away and saw our Dad on all of the Holidays and occasions that you see your Dad when your parents are divorced. It wasn't so bad. When you're a kid you go through the motions unknowingly, it's the only way you know.

As teenagers, one by one we moved in with my Dad and his new wife. He loved us but wasn't quite sure what to do with us and examined each of our behavior with fear in his eyes trying to figure out if any of us were like my Mother. I knew right away that if I needed to talk to someone and it was outside of Dad's comfort zone I went to the council of sisters and things were taken care of. Eventually we spoke in code with Dad, "I need to go to the drug store" meant that any one of us needed some kind of product that defined us as girls and he quickly gave us $20 and the car keys. No questions asked. His ignorance usually worked to our benefit. He never asked for change back and anything that ever broke was fixed with duct tape. It's the one thing that man felt passion for. If it was missing, he would run around the house like a crazy person looking through drawers and banging on doors asking if anyone took the duct tape. My Mom should have tried to beat him with that instead of a frying pan, I think she would have been pleased to see a spark in his eye as he wrestled her for the shiny silver roll.

As an adult, I don't own a power drill. I have duct tape. My daughter is only 8 and already knows what a significant role it plays in our life together. She has what looks like a little wart on her toe and I called the Doctors office and asked if they could look at it for me. After explaining what it looked like they said it wasn't necessary and that they would send me a remedy that would get rid of it. It came in the mail this week in the form of a letter and imagine our delight when it said to wash the area well and apply a small piece of duct tape for 6 days.

Before she fell asleep last night we cut out the perfect square of duct tape and put it on her toe. I wish I had an answer for her when she asked me what the special power was in duct tape to fix her foot. I just told her we would have to call Grandpa tomorrow night. He knows everything there is to know about duct tape.