Memoirs of My America – Lunchroom Angst

by Alexandra

funny-lunch-story

I am a suburban mother of three school age children, who, like most mothers across America; finds herself packing lunches Monday through Friday. For most mothers out there, I’ll bet pleasant memories of trading lunches with grade school friends brings a smile to their lips as they seal baggies with healthy, routine lunch fare for their American children.

You all probably see yourselves, back in fourth grade, sitting at the long lunchroom table across from your friends. Chattering away while pulling out the contents of what your very American parent has packed for you. So sweet, I’m happy for you; really. I’m happy that reminiscing about swapping lunches makes you smile and doesn’t conjure up a knot in your stomach.

It all has to do with what your childhood lunches were like. My lunches, my first-generation born here lunches, can only be described with the word “PANIC” placed in front of it.

I’d watch the American children around me dig out the amazing TV commercial contents from their lunch boxes; Little Debbie snack cakes, shiny bags of potato chips, perfect factory made fruit pies. My South American lunches were so different from the ones around me.

The panic and anxiety ridden grade school lunch trade – when the contents of my lunch shouted out who, and what and where I came from. Oh, to be part of the consumer crowd, to be one with the ham and cheese sandwiches, the Hostess Snowballs, the Sunny-D.

Hey! Who wants to trade me their tuna salad sandwich on whole grain for a big fat slice of musky goat cheese and guava jelly! Look, my Abuela threw in a chunk of mango on top  for extra Latino measure.

You can hear the squeals of the non-Latino children as they watched me carefully stack a cube of cheese on top of a cube of guava on top of a cube of mango….mmmmm mmmm, that’s good eatin’, right there.

What are you eating?? Eww….

Mmm…mmm..mmm..mmm and mmm, this is a delicious guava jelly and goat cheese breadless sandwich. Yum Yum. I’d trade with you but I just want it all for myself.

And so I’d rehearse my script, my envy conjuring up script. Beginning at noon, I’d prepare myself for the presentation of the lunch that was just too good to trade with anybody. Yeah, I was convinced that I could convince them.  I knew the lunches my Colombian Abuela would have packed for me would be red hot up on that ethnicity scale. So many possibilities: would she have thrown in a peeled, diced platano? Maybe a papaya?  Could I be lucky enough for a thermos full of the Colombian signature dish, Calentado?

I would almost faint from the combination of late morning hunger and forgetting to breathe as my heart pounded over what was in my clearance shelf padded white Monkees lunchbox. The minutes ticked closer and closer to the big reveal.

My lunchtime plan was always the same: I would sit down, lay out a spot, and present my lunch as a thing of beauty. Everyone at the table would know that their palettes weren’t sophisticated enough to trade their lunch for mine. The fantasy of this scenario played out daily.

I wanted to be part of the fun, to be in on the food trading, to hear other children go ooh and lick their lips over what my lunch box had inside. But this was the late 1960′s, and cultural diversity was just not going on. Especially not in a parochial school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This was a long time ago, and when I pack my children’s lunches now, I tell them of my Abuela’s slices of white goat cheese with a generous slab of guava jelly atop, garnished with tropical fruit.

They ask me if that’s why I’m so weird.
Yes, it probably is.
Can’t be 100% positive, but probably.

That which doesn’t kill us, makes us funnier. I should be getting my own special on Comedy Central any day now.

 

AlexandraAlexandra

Alexandra is an overanalyzing, oversensitive mother of three boys who somehow found herself named as BlogHer ’11′s Voice of The Year for Humor. She has been a mother since 1994, which means she hasn’t been right about anything since. She blogs of the sweet and the funny while trying to go unnoticed in her small town. You can find her at Good Day, Regular People. Did we mention socially awkward? We should, which is why the internet was made for her.

Comments

  1. My first regular feature post on Funny not Slutty!

    I am thrilled, and looking forward to this.

    The new site is beautiful, Jacki, and I am excited for all the fantastic featured writers we’re going to see here.

    Thank you for the daily laughs, and the love for humor, you bring to us.

  2. I’d watch!
    Monkees Lunchbox, huh? Love it!
    m.

    • Mark? Are you being nice to me to try and get this collector’s item? I wonder if you’re old enough to remember the padded lunchboxes..early attempts at insulation and so very sad…they’d rip and the foam would come out.

      So sad. Throw some tropical food in there, in the state of WI, and even sadder still.

      Thank you for stopping by!!

  3. CONGRATULATIONS!!
    I’m so proud of you for writing over here twice a month!
    I look forward to it reading more of your memories.

    • AWWW, thank you, Leighann. I am thrilled to be here. When I first began blogging, I began following FnS. In my hopes and dreams and wishes, I imagined myself here.

      And it has come to be. So, yes, I am very happy.

  4. How awful. I’m sure if I didn’t get free lunch at school my mom would have thrown in cold ass enchiladas with a side of mushy ride.

    • Rox, Yeah, right…what doesn’t kill us….I have GREAT stories that I will NEVER run out of.

      So, it’s a good thing.

      Thank you for stopping by? Did you see me wave to you from the billboard today? xo

  5. Very Cool new gig Alexandra! Wonderful story too, and yes, you should : )

    • MOTPG: I am very, very happy to be writing here. The stories I am going to tell, just waiting for someone to FINALLY hear them!! Thank you so very much for stopping over. I appreciate it.

  6. No way! I’m eating musky goat cheese, guava jelly and mango right now!

    (Not really. But it sounds delicious. Because I’m not in fourth grade.)

    Still. I’d share my sandwich with you any day, my friend.

    Comedy Central, here you come…

    • You’re so good to me, Julie. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoy these stories. You know, I meant it when I told you I wanted the flabby butt book for non runners.

      Because, hello? I’d be your target audience..

      Thank you for stopping by. Truly.

  7. So THRILLED to see you here, Alexandra! And this made me laugh. At your pain, yes. Sorry.

  8. Congratulations for writing here, dear friend!

    Oh, poor young you, with that exotic food. It does sound delicious to my 35 year old ears though…..

    My mom used to make me French toast, cut it up into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle some sugar over it. People used to try to STEAL my lunch.

    • Thank you, Alison!!

      It is really wonderful to be here. FnS was where I found so many of the humor bloggers I follow today. I remember wishing I could one day be here.

      And here we go. A very good day for me. I am grateful for the opportunities here, from Jacki.

  9. i used to watch the monkees in the afternoon…you know my boys school has serious restrictions on trading food because of all the issues…

    • Thank you, Brian.

      I remember RUNNING home to watch the Monkees.

      They came on at 3:30 and HOLY COW talk about breaking olympic records to get home in time for the opening number.

      Good memories.

      Thanks, as always, B, for all you do for me, and Baby E.

      You’re a good man.

  10. I love this :) I really can picture it so well, and Im sorry there was so much angst involved for you. mmmmm little debbie…..

    • Thanks, Frelle.

      So many memories.

      Who knew, back then, they’d make for funny stories today??

      Thanks for stopping by and all you do, Frelle. What I love about blogging: the people I’ve met.

  11. Alexandra you are a total inspiration with the pain into funny alchemy. And I’m amazed at your childhood self-esteem and imagination (and acting skills!!). So great that you’re a regular on this wonderful Funny Not Slutty. Ur FUNNY.

  12. I absolutely love their reaction to your childhood trauma. Oh how I wish I could go back and trade you lunches!

    • Did you have the Sunny D that I coveted?

      It looked so silky smooth and refreshing.

      You were one of the lucky ones, weren’t you?

      P.S. Guess how long this post took me to write. (hint: wasn’t 20 minutes…)

  13. I love this.

    • Thank you, Ann. I really delight in telling these stories…you can’t stop me once the memory gets triggered.

      They’re so fun to tell and I smile ear to ear, knowing there’s an appreciative audience.

      Truly, an audience is what makes the story a living thing.

  14. Congrats on the new digs! Your post made me soooo hungry ;-)

    • Thank you, Lori.

      You know, the queso with the guava is really good.

      Once you grow into the exotic palette that it requires.

      Thank you for stopping by, means a lot to see you here.

  15. Damn, now I’m craving me some “extra Latino measure!”

    Wonderful piece and congrats on the columnist gig – so cool!

    XOXO

    Anna

    • Next time I see you, mujer linda, I’ll be sure to bring a little sumpin sumpin along to latina you up.

      I’m thinking…animal print slap bracelet?

      That’s all one needs…just a touch of the faux print somewhere.

  16. I love the plucky little you ginning up the story to tell at lunch. You’re like a latina Tom Sawyer, trying to get the kids to paint the fence. I’m sorry you had to suffer the knot in your stomach, though. Difference scares most people. But I’m sure you’re right that going through these moments made you funnier. Lemons into limonada. (man, I should google that spelling) I’m sure it made you empathetic to the pain of others as well. I can’t wait to read all of your stories.

  17. Great story and congrats on the new gig! Even though they were flavored with angst, your elementary school lunches blew my chipped-ham-and-ketchup-on-white-bread out of the water. Looking forward to reading more. Love love

  18. It’s amazing how much we remember school lunches. Your post reminds me of “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding”. The same thing happened to the heroine but with a Greek twist…

    The thing I remember most (and I’m dating myself) was the delicious warm banana smell of the metal lunch boxes……

    i love that smell.

    • Thank you, Ann.

      Memories…so much fun.

      Who’d guess we’d be this old, looking back on them?

      Thank you so much, for how you always support me, no matter where I go.

      xo

  19. This is the truth. No one ever traded with me because I always had egg salad on home-made oatmeal bread. Oatmeal bread. Ain’t no Twinkie in that.

    Great to see you here, Alexandra!

    PS I love guava paste y queso fresco. Wrote about it here: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2011/01/inviting-writing-romancing-guava-paste/

    • So great to see you here, Elizabeth. Woke up thinking of you…

      guess who I married in my sweet dreams last night?

      Yup.

      Your John.

      I have never seen him happier.

  20. Mmmm . . . goat cheese.

    We made our own lunches from a very, very early age to spare ourselves this type of embarrassment.

    Can’t wait to see you on Comedy Central, but I’m THRILLED to see you here.

    XOXOXOXO

  21. And I used to feel badly when the grape jelly bled through my bread! In fourth grade my friend next to me always had a sprig of parsley…for her breath (not garnish). Recently my step father was reminiscing about his tuna sandwiches as a kid…no mayo…just drained tuna that was packed in oil.

    You filled your story with so much life, I could feel that lunchroom angst with you!

  22. I would have traded part of my sticky Asian rice and pickled fish dish for your awesome lunches any day. =)

    I mean, um, if you were willing.

  23. Oh.

    Tears came to my eyes.

    We would’ve been best friends.

    *snif*

  24. If you still had the Monkees lunch box, your kids would think you are the bomb. It’s all about retro, baby!

  25. That just sounds so deliciously good. And it reminds me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “ew what’s that?” “It’s moussaka.” Moose caca?????!!!!!”

  26. Congratulations on your new gig! So happy to see you here! My lunches were pretty standard American fare. Lunch meat du jour between 2 slices of Wonder bread (or peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on a really good day), chips and a Hostess snack. Although at the time you might have been envious at least you didn’t grow up believing that SANDWICH, CHIPS and TWINKIES were the basic food groups. Oh, and JUICE BOX. Can’t forget the juice box.

  27. I think your lunch sounds FAB–much more interesting than a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich, wherein the jam has leeched into the bread, and there’s a chunk of butter in the bread hole in the middle. Shudder.

    Oh, but they can’t bring peanut butter to school any longer!

    I wish we could sit down over coffee and talk about the other fun things you’d eat, because well, food is fascinating.

    Congratulations for your first post on Funny Not Slutty. I’m just getting to know this joint, and incidentally I hope in my next life I could be slutty, not funny. I think it will take me places. Interesting places.

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