A Love Letter to a School Lunch Lady
Dear Lunch Lady,
You don't know me, but I love you.
And not even because of that awesome Adam Sandler song about Lunch Ladies and Slop-Slop-Sloppy Joe. I love you for being you.
I also love you for feeding my son.
Why? Because it means that I don't have to. And for that, Lunch Lady, you have my eternal love AND devotion. I may even write you into the will, presuming I had one, which I don't, but don't lose the sentiment. You're doing the world -- and this parent -- one huge favor.
Now I know that if I were a better parent -- nay, PERSON -- I'd neatly pack my son lunches in delightfully colored and adorable Bento boxes, with sweet notes inside, wishing him well and hoping that no one saw that he was getting letters from his MOOOOMM because EW. NO ONE COOL LIKES THEIR MOM.
But I'm not a better person, so I don't. Mostly because I can't. And not just because I once broke a toe making a sandwich (true story, Lunch Lady, true story). It's actually because my kid has food issues.
And I'm not talking about the picky eater variety -- the kid has serious issues with autism, Lunch Lady, and that's not something to sing about.
Well, it wasn't until you (yes YOU!) came along.
Before you, Lunch Lady, my son attended a private Montessori school, to help with both his sensory issues and allow him to learn at his own speed. Sounds fancy, right, Lunch Lady?
Well it was. Until my son began first grade. That's when it all went tumblin' downhill.
See, preschool meant that the kids were fed -- probably boring stuff like beans and assorted legumes -- what toddler DOESN'T love beans? (Answer: Not mine.)
Once first grade began, the hot lunch option was squashed for my kid, which meant I had to struggle to find the kid something that he'd actually put into his mouth and digest. Not an easy prospect with my kid, Lunch Lady, not at all.
Day after day, I'd find that he'd totally neglected his lunch. Or I'd find shriveled (uneaten, natch!) carrots at the bottom of the sack, noting he'd only touched the peanut butter sandwich with his delicate palate. Fine, I said to myself, trying not to break another toe -- peanut butter it is!
That was all okay, Lunch Lady, until the summer after first grade when the school banned nuts. Entirely. Not a nut was to grace their doorways or a single building on the compound.
Lunch Lady, as you can imagine, this was not as easy as "Oh, well, he'll just have a cheese sandwich." This was life-shattering for the poor kid, who'd come home all low-blood sugared out, cranky, and exhausted because ... surprise, surprise! ... he wouldn't touch cheese. At least, not in sack lunch form.
We tried, Lunch Lady, to figure out a way to make this work (the school was notoriously UNhelpful in this process, but that is neither here nor there), but in the end, we bid adieu to the nut-free campus and enrolled into public school where we met you, my never-before-met darling.
It was at that moment that a whole world opened up to me: the school lunch. It was as though my every prayer was suddenly answered and I no longer had to pace about the house shrieking, "WHY oh WHY won't he EAT?"
For the mere price of 10 bucks a week, I could have my son eat -- REALLY eat -- and never have to peer inside a lunch bag again. No more did I have to sigh unhappily as I packed a lunch, knowing that I'd be seeing it in the exact same form 16 hours later. No more would I have to scour the aisles at the store, looking for something that he'd maybe, JUST MAYBE, eat.
You, my darling Lunch Lady, have managed to appeal to his tender palate and feed my son so that he does not return home appearing as though he'd been through a war.
And for that and so, so much more (like Pizza Day!), I owe you a debt of gratitude I can never repay.
P.S. Can I give you a hug?
Image via NatalieMaynor/Flickr