Have you ever watched that opening scene in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding?” where the heroine talks about seeing the blond girls at school eating their “Wonder bread sandwiches?” Well that scene always resonates with me but for a slightly different reason. When I was in elementary school, my family qualified for school lunches at a reduced price. I’m pretty sure that if a “regular” student purchased a school lunch, it would cost them somewhere around $1.25 while I only had to pay a quarter. I remember, early on, wanting to be the kid who brought a “Wonder-bread-sandwich-lunch” in a cool metal lunchbox but alas! Instead of skipping right to the lunch tables and exploring the treasures of my lunch box, I had to stand in line against the “booger wall” (the green stucco wall where the lunch dispensing window was held), trying to stand close enough to the wall to stay in line but far enough away to not get “contaminated” by its boogeriness. 🙂
From kindergarten through 5th grade, I routinely ate my hot-lunch typically looking forward to hamburger day or chicken nugget day but to be honest, I actually liked everything that was ever served except the dried out bean and cheese burritos. Luckily, I could drench it in hot sauce. Come Middle school, however, lunch rules totally changed for me. Very few people bought the hot lunch served on the partitioned Styrofoam trays anymore. You had to go inside the multipurpose room (to a separate line!) to get it. WHY DO THEY DO THAT?!?! Outside, there was a window where you could buy food items a la carte (i.e. yogurt, granola bars, handi-snacks….you remember, etc….) everything was a quarter…which was all I had…not a real lunch. If I sat with my friends and only had a granola bar, everyone would judge me with their sympathy.
Here’s a funny but relevant sidebar in my story. My total BFF at the time had the HUGEST crush on one of the P.E. teachers and every single day, without fail, would pay me one quarter to go and talk to him on her behalf. The first sentence never changed, “Hi Mr. S. ‘lizzy’ likes what you are wearing today” and the 2nd sentence changed daily. “And she wants you to know she saw you driving on Imperial yesterday” or “and she wants to know if you watched the Dodgers play last night?” or something else totally random. Now, you may think it rude of me to take my friend’s money, especially since Mr. S was quite handsome and talking to him was fairly enjoyable for me BUT I needed that extra quarter to save my reputation!….Now, with two precious quarters, I could buy a drink AND a food item and feel a little more like the kid who can afford to buy her own real lunch.
Funny twist: I found out recently that my husband LOVED to buy reduced hot lunches off of his friends because his mom made him and his brothers make their own lunches (which if you know him at all understand that that never happened). Apparently this was a win-win for everyone involved.
Now, as a mom whose kids do not qualify for reduced lunch, I wake up early and make their lunches every day. It’s something significant. I, the poor-little-rich-white-Mexican-mom, enjoy doing it because I CAN do it….except much to their chagrin; their sandwiches always come on wheat.