Friday, February 4, 2011

Love in a brown paper bag

MiniMac's school has a chef. He explained to me on the way home last night that he had cornbread and grilled chicken for lunch. I have had some great lunches in my day but certainly not cornbread and grilled chicken. Especially as a four year old. It did remind me of something though. Do remember sack lunches? The kind we used to carry to school way, way back in the day?

In high school, I was a picky eater and we often opted to exit campus. Unless, of course, it was tater tot and yummy chocolate brownie day and then I would be first in line in the cafeteria.  But before this time frame, when I believed Tater Tots and Grape Slurpees were perfect food groups, I used to take my lunch to school in that old familiar brown paper bag.  

Every day, I mandated virtually the same contents. Unsavvy to the foodie world as a little elementary school child, don’t think for a minute I was furnishing mozzarella and basil on foccacia during lunchtime. I was fully committed to the dual champions: Peanut Butter and Jam OR Peanut Butter and Honey. I would only use raspberry jam and wanted no jelly of any kind. And heaven forbid some silly parent in my house tried to fool me and use the very end piece of the bread to make my sandwich. We called this very end piece the "butt" of the bread. That had as much appeal as a tray of dog food.  And certainly remember fighting with my brother over who would NOT have to have the "butt" of the bread at dinner. I often won. But not without a punch in the arm in exchange.

As for the bread it was white bread only, don’t try to multi-grain me. Once, my Mom sent me to school with wheat bread. Poor spoiled girl, you would think my sandwich with laced with plutonium. And I liked fruit but please don’t try to put some carrot sticks in there. We are getting nowhere fast with carrot sticks. And once I stayed over at my Father’s and he sent me to school with some kind of corned beef and cabbage. That gave me all the trading power of a plate of dead bluebirds. It must have scarred me because to this day I have never eaten that sandwich. Yes, I am sure  it is good. Yes, I should move past it. But I don't seem to have it in me.

And the days my Mom's homemade chocolate chip cookies were hidden inside? The best. Followed by her PB cookies. Then snicker doodles. Then gingersnaps.

But what I remember most were the notes.

Every day my Mom would spend the time to write out a note. A little reminder. Maybe a tiny poem. A tribute to us and how much we were loved. Often, the front of the pale and nondescript bag was decorated as well.

For 9 months out of the year, if that brown bag went to school, so did that note. We knew we were loved, but the notes were just extra testimony. And when you are a kid, who believes you are 9 feet tall and indestructible, the note was a warm reminder. But on the day when you got into an argument with a friend, or your team lost kickball, or you did poorly on a spelling test, those things seem like insurmountable and devastating events in the mind of an 8 year old. And on those days, that note was a powerful reminder that everything would be fine. If not at school that day, then the minute you got home.  


Maybe the sack lunches are a thing of the past. Kids use debit cards to buy lunches from the "green" counter and have unlimited text messaging so notes might not even be necessary. Maybe I will slip MiniMac a note one day in the fine gray area of time before his parents are not his favorite people and a simple note would embarrass him. But they never embarrassed me.  To me, those tiny notes were a giant symbol. 

Of course, as long as they were not wrapped around any carrot sticks. Or tucked next to a sandwich made from the “butt” of the bread.

34 comments:

singedwingangel said...

I think most of us remember brown bag lunches. Based on the menus in today's school lunches as a rule we would be better off if we went back to it. I have left notes for my husband in his lunch box and he loves it.

the walking man said...

saints PRESERVE us, getting your BUTT in a huff over JAM and JELLY but these days the only written notes are found among the incarcerated and they are known as "kites" but from what some of my friends tell me they only fly to the recipient in BUTTS. In which case I think I'd prefer carrot sticks.

Will Burke said...

I got such notes occasionally, and they were great! But I thought PB & honey was my family's secret! Who told your parents? Heads will roll!

The Savage said...

We used to call school lunch, "Ritual Suicide".

Buckeroomama said...

I put a note in Josh's lunch box on his birthday last month and he came back home feeling really special. :) I should do that again... Thanks for the reminder!

Simply Suthern said...

I get the occasional note from the wife in my lunch if a take it. She slips notes in little A's once in a while too.

You got to leave school for lunch in High School? That was a no no at our school. I got in big trouble for that. Well stopping for a beer on the way back didnt help the situation any.

Corned beef and cabbage? MMMMMM We could trade any day.

Kathy said...

My oldest daughter was the pickiest lunch eater. I always had to back the same 1/2 shaved cornbeef sandwich, no condiments, just bread. The same little bag of chips, 2 cookies with $$ for juice. Shortly after I remarried my husband packed her a fantastic (he thought) new lunch. She still remembers knowing it was her lunch box, but it was not her lunch...she didn't eat it. Somrthing was very wrong.

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

I still hate the butt of the bread. The notes are very sweet. I plan on doing that once my kids start taking lunches to school.

Liza said...

I still pack my daughter's lunch in a brown paper bag...and she's a senior in high school!!!

In the Heart of Happy said...

I read Cornbread and Grilled Chicken Sandwich and stopped right there.

Are you kidding me??? I want to go back to school.

Great post, dear.

Kristina P. said...

I used to send notes with my husband's lunch. And then reality hit.

Eva Gallant said...

I remember bag lunches. Monday's sandwich was usually left over chicken or beef or pork from Sunday's dinner. The rest of the week was Peanut Butter, Raspberry Jam, and a slice of cheese in the middle! Accompanied by whatever homemade dessert Mom had whipped up...choc. chip cookies, oatmeal raisen cookies, etc. Warm memories!

Caty said...

I take my lunch to work now in a cute 31 bag. My roommate (who is also my sweet younger cousin) surprised me with a note one day. Even as an adult, it made my night at work!

Intense Guy said...

I never got a note that I can remember - and I often carried my lunch from home - in a really smelly lunch box. I referred PB and J and Tuna fish with extra mayo.

The only time the "lunch ladies" had anything that tempted most of the kids was when they served Cardboard Pizza (the rectangles with red paste and oily-gooey cheese.)

Pricilla said...

My mother was never put together enough to make a lunch but I do remember with great fondness the green meatballs that bounced. Ah yes, they were the delight in high school lunch

KittyCat said...

When I was a kid my mom used to make me peanut butter and pickel sandwhich. yum

My kids took their lunch, which I also left little notes until they hit Jr. High.
nOt that the food was great or anything. It just wasnt cool.

Now that my soccerboy is in HS the food they provide is alot better.

BUt it costs more too. I guess you pay some how some way.

Mommy Lisa said...

I lived for snack-pack chocolate pudding, sliced apple and a peanut butter and lettuce sandwich. I know, weird, but think of it like pb on celery.

Once I was using my apples to "spoon" out my snack-pak and one of the girls told me that was "gross".

That left a mark. :P

Jenn @ Youknow...that Blog? said...

Ahhh, PB&J sandwiches in a brown paper bag. The memories. I wish I could send peanut butter to school, but that has been outlawed for many a year now, and alas, neither of my girls will ever know such joy. The Teen refuses to pack a lunch regardless since it would be totally UNCOOL, and either doesn't eat until she gets home, or buys her food at school or nearby. Wee One? Well, she gets a lunch to tote in her Disney Princess lunch bag, but she's such a busy talker that most of the time it comes home uneaten and she's shaking with low blood sugar and near hysterical (which is handled without a word - I sit her at the table and make her eat something forthwith. She's better within 5 minutes). Sadly, lunches are not the same for us anymore!

Nitmos said...

I like to leave little notes in my son's lunch. He's in 7th grade. The note says "Start doing your homework...you're disappointing me." Then later "P.S.: What's with the complexion?"

No good?

Myya said...

When I was a kid very rarely did we get a sack lunch, but when we did it was THE BEST!!! Oh & kids are sooo spoiled nowadays. My girls specifically ask for Starbucks or Dutch Bros. I have created little coffee shop monsters (oh & although they do love coffee I stick to choc. milk, juice or smooties)

heather said...

my mom used to turn the butt side into the sandwich, thinking i wouldn't notice, but i always did. i still hate the bread butt, and now that i buy the bread, i usually just toss it. or throw it out the window for the birds.

secret agent woman said...

I went through a phase in HS where I would take my lunch money and buy a coke and cheese crackers every day. Then I went to a school with a Cordon Bleu trained chef and I was HAPPY to eat what he cooked.

brainella said...

Believe it or not, I make a lunch for my son every day. Well, no -- he wants to buy lunch on pizza day. So four out of five days he takes his Star Wars lunch bag to school. I write him notes too. He loves it, and he saves the notes.

BTW -- the only time to eat the butt end of the bread is when it is homemade bread. :)

Possum said...

Notes in your luch bag...how special!
If my Mum had done that I would wish I had kept all the notes...or is that another way of saying I wish my Mum had left me notes...

Mom in High Heels said...

Indy went to a private school for Kindergarten (his only year in school, as we now homeschool), and I packed his lunch almost daily. He's got quite the palate though so whatever I packed, he was happy with. He got a bottle of water, carrots, celery or grapes, sandwiches were only ever made on multi-grain bread (he hates white bread-clever boy), and if there was Pirate's Booty in the mix, life was good. Almost every day, I put a little post-it note in his lunch box with a note he could easily read or a little drawing of a heart or "kissy lips." He commented in the evening that he got my note and that was all he ever said. When we moved, I was cleaning out a drawer in his nightstand and discovered a little box that contained every note I had ever put in his lunch box. I believe I cried. When I stopped blubbering, I asked him why he kept them and he said "because they contain your love." I cried some more. He still has those notes in his box of treasured items. Whether or not he'll keep them, I don't know, but the fact that he saved them, and still has them warms my heart.

When I was a teenager, my dad used to pack his lunch in a brown bag and every night, I'd go into the kitchen and unpack it and decorate his bag with crazy little drawings of whales and birds and sayings like "Save the whales" and "save the Texas prairie chicken." He would sigh and roll his eyes every morning when he saw the bag, but when I went away to college told me he missed his decorated lunch bags.

Little Ms J said...

Sweet. I got a note on occasion, but I never had a news-worthy lunch. Mom liked peanut butter and jelly on bread. Regular bread. Not toast. I can't eat soggy bread. So, I started secretly taking money from my dad and bought from the pizza stand every day. I'm surprised my brain is fully formed.

Maria said...

Well at our house, Daddy makes lunches because Mommy makes dinner...I have snuck notes in there from time to time. Now, both of the older boys are in the school where I teach and I get to stop by and say hello, everyday. Luckily, I don't think they have gotten to the point where it's embarrassing for them, but I love to see those smiling faces at the beginning and at the end of my lunch half-hour.

MealPlanningMama said...

I put notes in my daughters lunch from time to time (Just last Monday in fact). To tell her I love her or to have a great day. I even put one in my toddlers lunch the other. My Mum did it for me and it always made my day.

She Writes said...

Love notes stay with us. Brown bags and notes. Nice.

Kato said...

The notes? The sweetest thing ever. My goodness.

I just ate whatever was in my brown paper bag. No questions asked.

But the days I was allowed to take a thermos of chicken soup or Alphaghetti to school? Well, now those were the days I was queen of the classroom.

:)

Life with Kaishon said...

I loved this so much. My Mom used to write notes on little envelopes where she would slip us .50 for an ice cream treat when we were done our lunches. I loved those notes. I love that I grew up with love like that. We have good Mamas : )

The Absence of Alternatives said...

Wow. That preschool makes better food than what we have every day at home. Maybe I can order takeout from there?! ;-)

I LOVE the note idea. You SHOULD start it. Start it now before he gets all jaded like my kids...

HalfAsstic.com said...

OH! MI! GAWD! This just brought back my children's elementary school lunches with a bang! Every, lunchbox, had personal touches that showed love and attention. There were paper napkins in every one that included a note written on it in ballpoint pen telling said child how loved they were and to have a great day. Paper sacks- all had smiley faces and names in sharpie marker on the outside.
TO THIS DAY, if I pack their lunch for something I am expected to include notes. ;-)
They are 19 and 21 years old.

DaisyGal said...

oh yes, the brown bags..and I was just talking to J about how I can't wait until the boys can read, because I am going to write them notes all the time. It's something that I am so looking forward to..a little bit of love in their lunch. :)