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.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to our mutual friend Khim and his Facebook link, you now have a reader in Michigan.

    Your clear, crisp voice is refreshing and precise in a way I wish more of my Detroit News reporters had written when I was at that paragraph factory. (Yes, I know KW as a treasured colleague from a time when we and The Syracuse New Times were young.)

    I can see, feel and touch your classic touchstones, which bridge geography, gender and religoion: Twinkies, crusty 'real' bread, wax paper, brown sacks, the milk cart!

    Took me back to P.S. 98 in Upper Manhattan, sans Sister Priscilla. (Great crack, that one.)

    Well-done, Tina (may I call you Tina?)