From Grade 2 through 7, my family lived six houses from our elementary school. Out the back door of the school, around the playground, across the parking lot, across the street and the third house was ours. It took less than three minutes to walk home. And that was if I was dawdling.
Every day, just before lunch, I would run to get my crossing guard uniform on (it consisted of a neon sash and a mini stop sign) and I would go out with my crew to usher all the kids across the street. We blew a whistle, made the three cars in the area stop for 30 seconds, blew a whistle and then went home for lunch. Even if it was a busy day, we could all get home before The Flintstones started.
My mom was a stay-at- home mom. She ran a babysitting service for people who weren't that lucky. They brought their kids over in the morning before school. The kids came home with us for lunch and then returned home with us again after school was done for the day. It was a good enough deal -- helped pay for groceries and things -- and it meant there were always kids to play with. Or, kids that we had to play with.
Lunch was a well orchestrated meal. We all sat down at the big dining room table that took up the other end of the kitchen. The plates were all set and we filed in rank and number to our seats. We were served at the table. I always thought it was because that's what mom's did. Although, ours never did it any other time but lunch. In reality, it was so she didn't have six or eight little kids under foot trying to get to the food.
First came the soup -- usually Mom's home made chicken noodle soup. I still dream of this soup. Actually, I think it was more like a stew with some broth. If I could cook, I would make gallons of it. There were serious chunks of chicken floating in there. Egg noodles curled around each piece. Veggies were in there somewhere, but you were so concentrating on each noodle and chicken piece you never noticed. Peas, carrots, corn... you name it, it was in there. There were always a few bones in there too, but Mom said it was good luck.
Second course, was the sandwich. Usually, it was bologna. I heart bologna sandwiches. Which is strange considering we had them ALMOST EVERY DAY for 5 years. Each of us were allowed to tell Mom what we wanted on our sandwiches and she would make them to spec. Mine never failed to gross everyone out. But it is how I like it to this day.
Mom made her own bread (every Thursday we had fresh buns slathered in honey... Mmmm) so the sandwich started out with Mom's bread. On one side of the sandwich I wanted Cheese Whiz. Then came lettuce. Then tomatoes. Then the bologna. Finally as much ketchup as one could put on a sandwich. Followed by the last piece of bread. It had to be in that order. It was revolting to look at, but heavenly to eat. I imagine that Nutritionists around the whole would shudder at the mix of processed meats and cheeses, but for me, that was a good sandwich.
Each day we would get dessert, but for the life of me I don't remember what it would be. It's funny, at the time, we were so focused on dessert. Anything that seemed like a treat was good for us. But in the end, that isn't what we remember.
The thing I remember most about lunch isn't what we ate, but who was there. Every day for lunch, my Dad came home. He would arrive just as we were finishing our plates and heading downstairs to finish watching Fred and Barney do something stupid. He and Mom would then have their lunches -- across the table from each other. They would talk and laugh and catch up on their day.
But after they had finished eating, they played Cribbage until Dad had to go back to work. Sometimes, if Flintstones was an episode we had already watched, us kids would crowd around the table and watch them play. We would cheer them on, count out loud, and have to be reminded what time it was. Then we would head back to school and Dad would head back to work.
For me, lunch was about being at home, being fed, being with family, and being back to school in time to play on the monkey bars.
I'm participating in: Write of Passage: The Lunch Box