There are thousands of them spilling out of a plastic bin under my desk.
Ever since Gabby was in preschool and started staying at school for lunch, I have been sending little lunch notes on a daily basis. Add to those the hundreds I have sent for Zoe, and there really are thousands.
These are not the pre-made ones you buy at the store or online. (I remember being absolutely appalled the first time I saw those.) Mine include photographs, hand-drawn pictures, or cutouts from magazines, all with little handwritten messages on them.
It was hard for me to let go when Gabby and Zoe first started school, and making lunch notes was my way to stay connected. It was as if they were taking a part of me along with them. Neither of them was too happy about the idea of staying at school for lunch, so I thought this would also be a little something to cheer them up in the middle of the day. Mutually beneficial lunch notes.
I couldn’t fault them for not being happy about lunchtime. I can count on one hand the number of times I stayed for lunch at Chatsworth Elementary School. I absolutely hated it. A long, dark (I remember navy/purple walls), windowless hallway of a room with mean lunch ladies, a closed door, and the deafening roar of dozens of screaming kids chewing with their mouths gaped open, the occasional food fight, smeared tuna and spilled milk on the table…
Instead, I escaped home to our cozy kitchen (open campus in those days) where my mom would make me a BLT and let me sit at our high butcher block table and watch Don Ho on our little black-and-white television set. Once a week, she would give me $1.25 to go to the drugstore right down the block from school and order a hamburger, French fries, and a Coke. She’d usually throw in an extra quarter so I could walk the block to Penny Candy where the woman with a very tall, blond beehive, pointy glasses, a light blue polyester jacket that made her look like she should be in a dentist’s office (ah, the irony in a candy store), and bright blue eyeshadow oversaw the unending jars of candy. Each piece really did cost a penny.
But I digress.
Lunch notes. I make them late at night or early in the morning. Once in awhile, when I am really tired or stressed for time and my creativity is lagging, I ask the girls to make them for each other. And, on the rare occasion, I have even been known to swap the ones from the day before as long as they don’t have names on them or they aren’t tied to a specific event or day.
In the beginning, I would toss the used ones in the recycling. But as age has crept up on me, I have become a little morbid and have started to think about my legacy and what memories they would have if something were to happen to me. So, I now keep the notes, tossing them in a plastic bin under my desk.
The bin has started to overflow lately. But after today that might not be such a big problem. My need for note making may be cut in half.
This morning, Gabby said to me, “Mom, I am too old for lunch notes.” My heart dropped a little. It isn’t the first time she has said this to me, but for some reason this time felt different. Maybe it’s because she will turn 13 in a couple of weeks.
I had always pictured myself sending the notes through high school, maybe even college (pack a pile with them at the beginning of the semester and they could put them in their lunches themselves). But it looks like that wasn’t meant to be. I still have hope. Maybe she’ll come around.
But, in the meantime, I have Zoe. At eight, she still looks forward to the little surprise each day. I plan to continue making and sending them as long as I can.