a continuing project of reading and writing through Ann Lamott’s bird by bird
chapter 5: school lunches- a good place to start
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I grew up in a small community called Rossmoor in the suburbs of Orange County. Our school was close to home; it was about a 10 minute walk I suppose, though back then I never kept track of time, unless I was practicing the piano or waiting for The Cosby Show to come on.
Lunchtime was outdoors where there were long rows of plastic cafeteria tables the color of robin blue, of spearmint toothpaste. We were in Southern California so it was warm and sunny almost everyday. In the case that it rained, we would eat in our classrooms and play indoor games afterwards like Heads-Up, Seven-Up.
My mom almost always packed my lunches in a brown paper bag. It would consist of a sandwich, snack, and drink. Very simple and straightforward, with no frills or nonsense. Usually, she used deli meat like turkey, chicken, bologna and ham. They were all smooth and pink, so I don’t think I ever knew the difference. I’d mindlessly eat my sandwiches unless it was something deviant like tuna salad or cotto salami. I almost gagged when I took a bite out of my cotto salami sandwich. I was repulsed by the peppercorns, which back then I didn’t know what they were nor cared to know. I just saw them as evil and told my mom I hated them. She told me to eat them anyway but packed them only on occasion. When I’d get a tuna salad sandwich, I had to tune out all conversation to focus on picking out the minced celery. The crunch in the midst of meaty creamy mush was disturbing to me. Sandwich meat shouldn’t be so complicated and disheveled. My favorite kind of sandwich was the pink meat with an iceberg lettuce leaf and a single Kraft cheese secured in between two slices of white Wonder Bread, cut neatly in half. The bread was so soft I could see my teeth marks and the bread would stick to the back of my two front teeth. But oh, every so often I would stare longingly at the Lunchables that came in its neatly packaged box with all its components in their own spaces. Crackers with meat and cheese! Now that was a revelation that not every kid could have.
The snack was always a small bag of chips. My favorite was Doritos, then Cheetos (orange covered fingers to lick!), and my least favorite Fritos. This I wouldn’t touch. My mom would buy variety packs from Price Club, and there would always be a big pile of Fritos left in the box. And then there was the drink, which was a Capri Sun. Punching a hole in the bag with the thin yellow straw was always a challenge. I’d often spill and make a mess with it, but I still loved it. My favorite part about drinking it was blowing into the silver pouch until it filled with air like a balloon and squirt out the juice like a water fountain. My friend always got V8, and I’d feel sorry for her. Who would want to drink something with pictures of vegetables on it? But she did; she’d always drink it all at the end of her lunch and her breath would smell like tomatoes. But this never stopped me from wanting to sit next to her because she would laugh at all my jokes and was one of my very first friends.