Writing exercise: School lunches

I just attempted to continue where I left off with Victoria and HF yesterday, but I just can’t find my voice on it, so I’ve opened Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott to a random page, and at her suggestion, I will write about school lunches. I’m going to throw “I remember” in there too, to keep things flowing.

I remember buying lunch tickets. I remember when I first started elementary school, milk tickets were gray and lunch tickets were orange, and then eventually milk tickets were red and lunch tickets were yellow. I remember you’d have to buy lunch tickets from the trailer near the four-square area, because every school I ever went to, kindergarten through college, was under construction when I was there, and then was shiny new awesome the year after I left.

I was a school lunch kid, rarely brown bagging. I remember the hot dogs, and how rumor had it that if you dropped one on the floor, it would bounce. I remember the Sysco (Cysco?) chocolate pudding and how deliciously it complemented a reluctantly dipped tater tot. Yes, tater tots in chocolate pudding dee-licous! I remember lining up to get lunch, and I remember in second grade when I kicked a certain jerkface in the nuts – I remembered that many, many times through twelfth grade when under his endless torment.

I remember when they started serving pizza on Mondays and chocolate milk on Fridays, and then they started serving pizza, like, every day, and to this day, I have a very low tolerance for pizza as a result. I remember when the milk came from a local farm, and the chocolate milk was awesome. I remember the taco boats made of rectangular yellow corn tortillas. I remember boiled carrots, which I swore to hate but I think in fact secretly loved. I remember “a la carte,” but I don’t remember what that entailed.

In high school, I remember the old cafeteria, the one that got condemned my freshman year. I remember eating a lot of Hostess snacks, and I remember that there was a smoking area outside, which also was “condemned” my freshman year. I remember eating in the culinary arts dining room sophomore year, and having about five minutes to eat because they had to have five lunch sessions instead of four to accommodate everyone in the small space. I remember the tables poured out into the hallway, and my friends and I would sit at the table at the end of the hall outside the Spanish classroom.

I remember all we ate were greasy french fries and giant, equally greasy, chocolate chip cookies. I remember turkey subs with cheese melted on, dipped in mayonnaise, so I guess I didn’t only eat cookies and fries. I’m guessing I have an artery or two that remembers these meals as well.

I remember the new cafeteria that we finally got to move into sometime Junior year. I remember longer lunches! I remember acquiring a taste for Diet Coke, because everyone hated it, and therefore no one would ask you for a sip. I remember sitting in the deep window during study hall back when I had purple hair.

In college, I remember eating grilled cheese on Texas toast, fries dipped in mayo, chicken patty on a bun. I remember Dave coming to eat dinner there and remarking how we called our space a “dining hall” and at his school it was a “caf” and the titles suited since we had chandeliers and lounge chairs and they had, well, caf. I remember the TV in the back room where people would watch soap operas during the day, and Jeopardy and the Simpsons at night. I remember being in there when Ellen Degeneres kissed another woman for the first time on TV before her sitcom got canceled. I remember being so moved, in a room filled with my schoolmates, many of whom were young gay people, just starting to fight so hard for their rights.

I remember peanut butter and green apple in pita sandwiches, muenster and tomatoes on multigrain, PB and hummus – don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. I remember cupcakes! I remember everyone and their brother dipping pizza in ranch dressing, except of course me, since pizza had been ruined for me back in elementary school.

I remember laughs and tears, being the only one at the table not invited to a birthday party, being the only one at the table asked if I would like my boyfriend to have my name shaved into his head. I remember dances, and getting ready for plays, and fold up tables with benches on the sides. I remember the lunch gremlin and the way she put your change in your hand, and I remember thinking it was really mean that people called her that.

It’s amazing how many life defining moments happen in these places. Or anywhere you eat, really. The big stuff always seems to happen around food. Man, this assignment made me hungry. What I wouldn’t give for some tater tots and chocolate pudding about now!


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