Thirteen years (plus!) of schooling and twenty five years of teaching. My entire life has been about the school calendar. And. . .the lunch box!
When I was in Kindergarten, I attended the afternoon session. Most of my peers were either the morning or afternoon session. Full school days did not happen until first grade. Lunch was with Mom. Most days I was so excited or so nervous or so distracted, I could hardly eat anything. My mom placed a carefully crafted peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut exactly down the middle, in front of me every single day. My yellow smiley face mug of milk and some piece of fruit sat along side the sandwich. It was a constant conversation of: “Hurry up or you’re going to miss the bus!” or “Only big girls who eat all their lunch can cross the monkey bars!” and “When I turn around, that sandwich better have jumped into your stomach!”
The following year, started the brown bag extravaganza of the rest of my schooling career. All the other kids had really cool lunch boxes. Michelle had Wonder Woman staring off into the distance with her hands on her hips. Brenda was all about Scooby Doo holding a petrified Shaggy in his arms. There always seemed to be more than a few who had Betty Boop plastered all over their lunch box. But the one I wanted? The one I begged Santa for every single year?? Strawberry Shortcake!!! I coveted a Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox. The red and green and pink and big smiling freckle faced girl. Instead I sheepishly dragged my ugly and boring brown bag to lunch while all the other kids proudly marched along, clutching their prized possessions, displaying their favorite super hero for that year.
High school rolled around and most of us “Catholic School kids” were introduced to the idea of a REAL cafeteria. Most people bought lunch every day, grabbing their staple of fries and chocolate chip cookies, sitting only long enough to inhale them, before rushing off to finish their homework for the next period. But Junior year! Junior year was different! I had lunch with most of my friends and we had a study hall immediately after lunch, so lunch was all about eating everything we could get our hands on and sitting around the table, laughing and chatting until we were told to clean up our mess.
I instituted Lunch Box Thursdays. I remember taking my hard earned money from my summer job and driving to Woolworth’s (good grief, I am old!) to finally get my long desired Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox! I practically ran from the parking lot into the store and made a beeline for the lunchbox aisle. I SNATCHED THE VERY LAST STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE LUNCHBOX on the shelf!! VICTORY!!!! As I was clinging to my long awaited prize, I perused the rest of the lunch boxes on the shelves.
And along came Susan. I didn’t know Susan, but I will forever remember her name, what she looked like, and her excruciatingly painful whiny voice! Why? Because her whine stopped me dead in my tracks. It made my Shirley Temple curls go poker straight and my eye balls do the jitterbug in their sockets. This child had a whine that got her ANNNYYYY-THING she wanted. How do I know? Because the only thing she wanted that day was a Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox.
I’m not going to draw this out any longer than it needs to be. I did it. I handed over the lunch box I was holding. And before you get all “Oh Mo, you’re such a good person!”, don’t bother . . . . because right in the very spot where I was standing . . . .stood the most beautiful CHIPs lunchbox I had ever seen, with both Ponch, with his pearly whites, AND Jon, with his boyish grin, smiling RIGHT AT ME!!!
Life WAS all about the lunchbox that year! For Susan. And for me. 🙂