Packed Lunches: Love in a Sack

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There are many ways that we show love to one another in our family. On a frigid morning, my husband might surprise me by starting my car, putting the seat warmer on, and having a steaming cup of coffee waiting for me in the cup holder next to a note telling me to “Have a great day!” Yes, I feel the love!!!! For years, Grace has shown me her love by bringing me flowers that she has found outside. Sometimes, the beautiful blossom might include the root system of one of my newly planted annuals. Gasp! Occasionally, in my coat pockets, I find dried-up, crumbling little daffodils that she had given me when we used to spend our summers at baseball fields cheering for her brother. Ironically, these little treasures are more precious to me now than when she had first given them to me. What sweet tokens of love! My showering of love includes hot breakfast for my husband and daughter almost every morning to start their days off on the right foot. I am a little laundry-obsessive making sure that their clothes have the freshest smell so when they put them on they can inhale all that love! I am crazy for Downy Unstoppables! I am also an ironing fanatic (I used to iron the sheets) who is starting to give in to some of the wrinkles due to a lack of time. Grace actually referred to me as an “Ironing Super Hero”. I fold underwear into sweet little packages that are lined up in the drawers. It may sound a little crazy, but they look like rows of little hearts!

One of the ways I show my daughter that I love her is packing her lunch every day. It started with packing her lunch for first grade. The night before, I would take great joy in my quiet time after she went to bed decorating her paper lunch sack with her class’s letter of the week. For example, if the letter of the week was P, I might write “The Proud Purple Penguin Put up her Polka-dotted Parasol”. Then I would take great pleasure in drawing an illustration to match. It was the epitome of dorkiness, but it was a stage that felt bittersweet to leave behind. Her lunch sacks were sadly replaced with a Barbie lunch box. Currently, my little fourth grader is sporting a Vera Bradley lunch sak that she threw in as part of a negotiation for a new VaVa Bloom backpack for achieving straight As all year. After all, they must match!

I would say that she enjoys a wide variety of lunches. In first and second grade, I would alternate between American cheese sandwiches or PB-and-Js. Occasionally, I would throw in a thermos filled with cottage cheese, sliced turkey, and pineapple or peaches. She really loves to takes leftovers with her, and I am amazed at how she bravely opens her thermos and isn’t swayed by peer pressure. One of her personal favorites is grilled rosemary seasoned lamb chops with saffron and Parmesan risotto. She told me about her tablemates asking her what she was eating. “EWWWWWWW!!!!” You’re eating dead lamb!” She continued undeterred. It reminded me of my own experiences in the lunchroom when I was in school.

My mother is a fantastic cook. She is also wonderful at stretching the dollar. My lunches were creative to say the least. My personal favorite was egg salad sandwiches on fresh white bread. It was pure heaven biting into the creamy texture and having to use my tongue to pry the bread off the roof of my mouth because it was so soft. I remember being in Mrs. Pillow’s first grade class, and the class squealing, “What is that smell? Did somebody fart? Ewwww!” I couldn’t have cared less!

I think my mom thought that peanut butter and jelly was either too expensive or too beneath her culinary talents. I’m not sure. She would send her little darlings to school with a variety of tasty sandwiches: green olive and cream cheese, roast pork or roast beef, tomato and cheese, cucumber with mayo, and baked bean. Yes, I said BAKED BEAN!!!!!!! As I said earlier, my daughter wasn’t bothered by any reproachful looks or comments from her peers. It wasn’t the same for me. I would wait until everyone pulled out their PB-and-Js and I would sneakily slide my sandwich out of my lunch box and try to eat it without garnering a lot of attention. It wasn’t something that I could get away with when eating the odorous egg salad, so I wouldn’t even bother trying to hide it.

Nowadays, when my brother and I tease my mom about the myriad of unusual lunches, she defensively responds, “I always tried to send you to school with a healthy and nutritious lunch!” My thought…ISN’T PEANUT BUTTER MORE NUTRITIOUS THAN CUCUMBER??? I used to babysit a child that ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner and she lived to adulthood! Mom, just kidding! I LOVED those cold baked bean sandwiches!!!! They were really awesome, ESPECIALLY if I had been vegetarian!(Gag)

I now realize how fortunate I was to have had a mom that put that much thought into providing my brother and me with such a tasty lunch. Most mornings, I don’t feel like being all that creative with the menu. If I have a little stretch when I put the same PB-and-J, apple, chips and FiberOne bar in her sak too many times, she lets me know. She says, “Mom, can I PLEASE have something different for lunch today?” Growing up, I never had to ask for a change to the routine. My mom could just as easily have made the same thing every single day. After all, “Variety is the spice of life!” Thanks Mom! Thanks for all the love!

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