Wednesday, March 11, 2009

words & pictures: school lunches

Pip over at Meet Me at Mike's has started a nifty blog along inspired by Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Since I have oodles of papers for school to write that I am so very good at putting off, I thought that maybe adding another assignment would help get those words out. All you have to do is post a picture and write a little somethin' somethin'. I almost went with a haiku for my first post but I couldn't figure out where to start so you get the ramble, ramble.The kick off theme is school lunches, here we go!

I was a free lunch kid. In grade school they would put our little white cards up on the lip of the blackbird to collect just before lunch time. The cards were white with red and black writing and had little boxes on them that got punched out with each meal. My school served breakfast and lunch and if you had a white card you got it for free. Most of the kids in my class got a card so it wasn't too big a deal but man oh man, did I envy those kids walking out to a separate lunch area with brown bag lunches and those fabulous metal lunch boxes shaped like school buses and such. Pizza day be damned, I wanted desperately to have a lunch box with a peanut butter sandwich and ding-dongs tucked away inside. I think my mom was able to pack me a lunch only once and I had to brown bag it but I didn't care, I got to sit with the kids with all the variety. It didn't matter that the jelly on their sandwiches had seeped through the sticky white bread. It didn't matter that their apple juice got warm or their zinger got squished. This was the life and I wanted to be a part of it.

Eventually I ended up working in the cafeteria for my free lunch. Free lunches by way of the meal plan were awkward by the time I reached fifth grade and if you worked in the cafeteria you got a free lunch and it was cool. Sometimes, you even got a special lunch if Roberta the cafeteria lady liked you and you didn't really dig the burritos. If you were fast, you got to do trays which involved pulling down a tray and adding a plastic wrapped napkin and spork combo. Sporks! My cousin & I started a spork collection there were so many different colors. Each spork came numbered and we made it a competition to see who could get as many in sequence as possible. I liked the blue sporks and kept my collection in a sticky-tacky yellow tupperware container small enough to cart around with me but large enough to house my growing collection.

By the time junior high rolled around, I was selling my lunch tickets for half the cost of a hot lunch and using my dollar to buy a carton of milk and the best frosted brownies ever! I can still recall that flavor if I close my eyes and breathe in slowly. When I got to high school, I made my cousin bring me brownies home they were that good! Don't think too poorly of me, after my first semester in junior high, I formally quit the free lunch program and managed to sustain myself with sandwiches from home. I didn't have any friends to eat with in seventh or eight grade so I got a job working in the library at lunch time. It was easier pretending to be busy than being lonely and odd. Ninth grade got much better as I found a small group of girls willing to hang out with me and I even managed to maintain those friendships once we went to high school.

In high school I bogarted my friend's G.I. Joe Lunchbox. She had altered it to be a snarky commentation on the military and I loved it. Then my brother picked me up an old Scooby-Do box and I scored a Hardy Boys box in perfect condition for fifty cents. I was finally one of the cool kids with a lunchbox. Granted, I was seventeen at this point and considered quite odd but I didn't care. Every lunch period we would sit in our small cluster and eat. That is unless it was Pizza Day when I would have my mom order us a pizza from Hungry Howie's and we would have it delivered to our spot. Two for the price of one. All the leftovers were passed along to my cousin or the nice guy on the basketball team that I had been in school with forever. One of my gals and I would switch off who made lunches. Sometimes I would make our lunch, roast beef sandwiches on toasted whole wheat toast with american cheese, mayo and lettuce. And sometime she would, turkey. It was a nice system and then I got addicted to carrot sticks and ate so many I turned orange. Literally.

For a long time after that, people would get me lunchboxes and I still love them but have nowhere to put them. Inside, I tuck (stuff) away mementos (junk) and put them up on a shelf. When I got this box down to photograph it for the post, I realized I hadn't peeked inside in years. Here's what I found:

*wooden nickel celebrating the centenial of Rockford, Ill.
*picture of my highschool buddy, Margie who I miss dearly
*photo of me back when I lived with the Jimi fanatic
*1992 newspaper clipping on Nick Cave
*letter from my favorite pen-pal, also missed, Amuah if yer out there, Hello!
*real Nottingham Lace edged hankie, in package
*1980's pic of my cat with a comic bubble on it
*an even earlier pic of my mom in a fabulous bathing suit & sunglasses

Lidsville really IS the kookiest!


  1. I'm in on this too! Super glad to see other people are joining up too! Yay!

  2. I love how you and your friends made lunches for each other in HS.

    I always wanted the packed lunch with packaged treats in grade school too...only got them for field trip days. With a can of pop wrapped in foil! ?!

  3. What a wonderful story! American lunches seem so exotic compared to ours in Australia. Do you still have your spork collection? They sound so cool!

  4. That is a great time capsule!

  5. I would have sat with you and made you peanut butter and brown sugar sandwiches (and pink milk on Valentine's Day and green milk on St. Patrick's Day).


  6. i love sporks!! i just joined words & pictures this morning...i've been following your beautiful blog and was so excited to see that you've joined too! have a wonderful day!

  7. Oooh, how I wanted to bring cold lunch, but I was a hot lunch kid. Never owned a lunch box, although I sure wanted to.

  8. I worked in the school lunch room too. I loved it there.