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.
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.