Monday, December 14, 2009

Brown Paper Packages and Hard Metal Boxes

Challenge #2 from {W}rite of Passage:
The Lunch Box Essay. Take fifteen minutes to write about your elementary school lunch.
Describe. Remember. Smell. Touch. Who is there? Where are you? What are you eating?

I went to a Catholic school. We didn't have hot lunch - had to bring your own. Depending on the weather, I remember sitting in the gym with the girls in my class (there were only seven of us) or out in the schoolyard. 

For the longest time, I remember carrying a metal (do they even make those anymore?) Care Bears lunchbox. The thermos normally held Kool-aid (milk was supplied for us); soup on cold winter days. There was always a sandwich (bologna or peanut butter & jelly), chips, sometimes sliced fruit or veggies, and something sweet. 

I remember trading cookies and whatnot for a tiny pinch of Andrea's Fruit Roll-Up or string cheese. 

When I was too old for Care Bears and the Ghostbusters plastic one that came later, there was the obligatory brown paper lunch bag - Mom would always write our names in her pretty script on the bags in marker so we could see it. Of course, there was always hell to pay when you forgot it at home and she had to run it back to the school!

Once a quarter, they would do a special lunch - hot dogs or hamburgers or pizza. Everything was ordered in advance and doled out by the room mothers at lunch. It's funny that we all went to lunch at the same time - squashing first graders all the way up through the eighth graders into the same small gym.

As much as you think it would, I don't remember the gym smelling like you would expect a gym to smell - old sweaty socks and rubber balls. It was my favorite room (except the tiny library).

In the gym, you could always count on to be sweating or freezing your ass off, depending on the time of year. There are days when I miss the white button-down shirts with the Peter Pan collars and the blue plaid jumpers that you had to wear shorts under so the boys didn't see your undies in gym. Once you hit sixth grade, the jumpers turned to just the blue plaid skirts. Funny thing was, even though it was a Catholic school, no one thought anything of the girls removing said skirts in front of the boys when you were getting ready for gym class.

Sigh. I miss those days.

I write of lunch, but there is so much more behind that. There were seven girls and eleven boys in my eighth grade graduating class. I can still name all of them - me, Andrea, Colleen, Maryalice, Mary, Lisa, Tara; Jimmy, Brad, Chris, Tom, Mike H, Mike M/K, Eric, Matt, Pat, Zeb, and William. 

Being the only girl on the co-ed soccer team. 
Earning your ribbons. 
Being on patrol and an officer. 
Songleading in church when it was our class's turn and when the second graders completed their First Communion. 
Being the eighth grader picked to get to miss all of your classes for a day to help the Kindergarten class with their program and graduation. 
Getting to have class in the convent (nuns' home) or in the rectory (Father's home) where it was air conditioned when it became too unbearable in the classroom.

Great. Now you've made me want to take out pictures.

But I'll always remember Brown Paper Packages and Hard Metal Boxes...all with the smell of food.

Have a taste of these Lunches:


  1. funny...i don't remember my lunches well but i, too, think of andrea every, really...every, time i eat string cheese...weird.

    i thought it was always the 3 of us: you, me, and andrea on the co-ed soccer team...hmmm.

    i can name our entire class in order of our numbers - remember the numbers? why did we need numbers when there was only 18 of us? this i believe will be a life-long mystery of my cabrini education.

    i was number 16 you were number 14 - tommy was 15. andrea? she was 17...i think it's weird that i can remember that.

    just felt compelled to share...

    with love,
    number 16

  2. The co-ed was before you moved to Cabrini - 1st grade? 2nd grade, maybe? It was early on. There was also one year that you and Andrea played on the girls' team (when there was enough of the seventh and eighth graders to play). I remember only playing one year.

    Totally forgot about the numbers thing, and I would agree - there was only 18 of us? Did the nuns think we were going to get lost? Kept us in alphabetical order, though :)I find it funny that I listed JR as Jimmy, but Romanotto as Tom instead of Tommy.

    I remember our graduation picture with the class (minus Pat). All of us girls wore white shoes, and we didn't even plan it that way! :) We looked (and were) so young back then; full of ideas and possibilities, and crying our fool heads off at the reception after graduation in the gym.

    And you know, I'm surprised that we were as good on the full size court in basketball as we were - between being able to hit the opposite backboard from one end of the court to quickly learning that playing on a wood court was vastly different than playing on tile! :)

    Miss you, 16.

    Love, 14

  3. Wow, your lunchtime tale was an eye-opener, indeed!


Be safe out there.