It was dark where we waited in single file to pay a nickel for our carton of milk. We walked down a wide staircase to reach the basement where a lady collected the fee and handed each one of us a carton. A small light bulb lit that room outside of the lunchroom. After we got our cartons, we walked into the lunchroom where long columns of windows bordered one wall to brighten the place. Long rectangular tables lined up evenly to fill the space. I had to lift my leg high to get over the bench while carefully holding onto my brown paper bag where I’d just stored my carton that was sitting on top of my lunch. My other hand held onto the table for balance. I didn’t think I could hold onto a lunch bag and a carton of milk while maneuvering my legs over the bench especially while wearing a jumper.
Mom always packed the same lunch for me in first grade. I opened the bag, took out the ice cold milk, and opened one side of the carton so the opening reminded me of a diamond shape. Waxy bits of the carton made my fingers sticky. When I looked in my bag again, I found two pieces of white bread sitting inside neatly folded wax paper. If I was lucky, the carton didn’t squish the sandwich. I always lifted one edge to make sure crunchy peanut butter was on one side and grape jelly was on the other. After a few bites, I drank straight from the carton because we didn’t have straws available to us. (Yes, straws had been invented then, but our school didn’t have any.) Sometimes when I drank, a chip or two of frozen milk cubes surprised me. After the sandwich was gone, I twisted the stem of a bright red apple while I recited the ABCs. Whichever letter I was on when the stem broke off, was the first letter of the last name of the boy who liked me that day! I bit into the crunchy apple and ate it all away except for the seeds and core. By the time I got to my dessert of a powdered donut, my milk was gone because it seemed like peanut butter and white bread need a lot of washing down to get it all to the stomach. For the rest of the day, it felt like the powdered sugar stayed on and around my mouth. Even if I tried to wash it away, my face still felt powdery.
I was glad when I made it to second grade because that’s when I got a lunch pail, and I got to eat bologna sandwiches with Miracle Whip. I must have matured enough to figure out that I could let Mom know I didn’t want any more powdered donuts and that I was tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’ve only eaten a handful of those donuts since I graduated from first grade and doing so brings me back in time to my old school’s lunchroom. Yet, I will have a crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich at least once a week even now.
How about you? What did you use to eat for lunch when you were in elementary school? Do you still eat that now? Did you have a lunch pail? What picture was on your lunch pail?
It’s hard to remember what it’s like to be small sometimes, after we’re all grown up.
Blog post idea courtesy of WordPress: Your typical childhood lunch.