Picnics in the park, family reunions, and religious celebrations bring people together to share food and create memories of smiling faces and happy hearts. Are there times when bringing people together around food is not so joyous an occasion? I reflected on middle school cafeteria lunchtime.
My mother stuck heroically to a food budget. Yet, I rarely remember a homemade lunch as something I looked forward to eagerly. I realize my unhappiness wasn’t so much about the food as it was about the way my classmates made me feel about it. Someone may say that I should have been happy I had any food. There is truth in that statement, yet how people make you feel plays a significant part in how to think about everything.
I envied the Twinkies, bologna and cheese sandwiches, small cartons of milk, and even the hot lunches most kids ate that included pizza, beefy macaroni, canned fruit, and tapioca. I think of all of these options today, and I realize I dodged a bullet when it came to eating empty calories and junk food. Yet, regarding my lunch then, I was painfully embarrassed.
My fellow lunch mates made fun of the milk or soup I poured from my thermos. They would sneer at my cream cheese and jelly sandwiches and the single apple I had for dessert. They even made fun of my mother’s homemade bread as they ate their crustless “Wonder Bread” sandwiches. Although, in regards to the homemade bread, the joke was on them. My mother made the best bread. I especially loved the sandwiches she made with homemade “sandwich spread” that on rare occasions, included a slice of cheese. Let’s not forget the mayo and Saturday leftover baked beans sandwich!
There were days I wouldn’t open my lunchbox and, instead, pretend I wasn’t hungry. On occasion, I even hid in the locker room until lunchtime was over.
Maybe joy is occasionally delayed. As I write and reminisce, my heart is smiling as it remembers and feels the loving care mom put into my sandwiches, wrapped and artfully sealed in waxed paper.

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