Tuesday, September 29, 2009

School Lunch: Creative Writing Prompt

This post is inspired by Gwen's latest entry. Someone in her old writing group posed a creative writing prompt: "Tell me about a school lunch you had once. ... Don't forget the details. Write for fifteen minutes."

I'm feeling inspired by Gwen's really awesome entry, which offers up this line: "Did some fairy-godmother lunch lady decide that a bunch of eight-year-olds needed freshly grated mozzarella?"

So here's my offering.


I got lucky my first day of kindergarten. The very first person I met became my best friend for the next eight years. She always saved a seat for me at lunch, and vice versa.

Even in the earliest grades when you were just directed to have a seat and eat ("No saving seats! Packers sit with packers, regulars line up first, then alternates!"), we planned the night before what we were going to do. Wendy and I were always together. We coordinated our regular, alternate or packer status. I was covered. Except on Brunch Lunch days. I hated Brunch Lunch. Always made me sick.

The giggly BFF-ness spilled from the pull-out-from-the-wall-like-Murphy-bed cafeteria tables to the girls restroom where the "let's wear denim skirts and pink shirts tomorrow!" girl council summits continued. We declared war on rival cliques between flushes, swapping pre-broken Best Friend necklaces from Claire's Boutique over sinks slick with slimy pink hand soap but under wet brown paper towels turning on clickety spindles. We spritzed away the the smell of tater tots and sloppy Joes with apple-scented Salon Selectives hairspray- THE BEST haircare product to crunchify one's poofy bangs, doncha know- then headed out to the playground to broker the ensuing peace treaties.

Wendy's parents announced they were divorcing pretty much in the first month of seventh grade, and well... everything changed. When we finally reconnected via Facebook and got together on Memorial Day of this year, we spent nine hours catching up on the seventeen years that had passed since our friendship ended. A solid half hour was spent discussing what it was like when in those first few months without our friendship to fall back on: her move out of East Pete, the introduction of the guy who would marry her mom. (She still refers to him as R!ck the Dick; I almost snorted Diet Snapple out of my nose in May. Can't believe she still calls him that).

But that fall, missing her was like missing half of myself. When you are 12, there is nothing quite so validating as someone who dresses like you right down to the poodle skirt for trick-or-treating, gets identical glasses and spiral perms, and takes dance classes, and joins the soccer team, and suffers through violin lessons and drama club try-outs with you. After the divorce, her three-times-daily phone calls every-day-since-1985 dwindled to none.

But I was never lonelier than I was at lunch time.

I sat in the same seat every day because the Popular Girls were just one table over. I never quite broke through the glass ceiling to the Elite Level of Popularity where half the student body worships you so much that they secretly wish you'd die in your sleep, but oh, I had dreams and aspirations. "Hey you! Nearby girl! Come sit with us and play field hockey!"

It never happened, so every day I sat next to Br@d Ford and Brend@n O'Donnell and Todd H@y. This was YEARS before they would respectively become the power-drunk drum major in too-tight sweatpants, the long-haired hemp 'n puka shell necklace-wearing star of the Malaprop Players, and the moody adorable curly-haired guitar guy with a marked indifference to personal hygiene that they would each become in the latter years of high school. I was a girl. I was scary to them, and we never spoke.

I did okay in 8th grade actually, having been swapped to a new academic team with Smarter Smart Kids who cared about Word Wealth and wrote deep, meaningful poetry about anorexia. We were all together except for two periods a day: math and lunch. I slogged through Level Two Math while they ate. They solved for x in Algebra I, while I- having officially abandoned Operation: Popular Clique Quest '91- wrote notes to my New Special High School Friends and ate completely and totally alone.

Until one day, when one of the many Jennys realized this. "Eat lunch with us!" she said, but oh no, Lick Nongobardi's once and future on-again off-again crush girl who hated me since I danced with him at Homecoming was a part of that crew. The Drama! The Angst! The Mutual Eye-Rolling!

"Come on, " Jenny #2 said, picking up my tray. "She'll get over it. No one should have to eat alone." And then I didn't anymore.


You know you want to share a lunch story. Do it. Do it!


Lauren said...

You have an amazing memory! Would you believe I can't remember my elementary and junior high lunches at all? And all I can remember from high school is Megan and I skipping Friday club to instead eat lunch all three periods and gorge on peanut butter frosted brownies. That's it. That's all I've got. Huh.

Elizabeth said...

I love how the details of what you ate and how and with whom turn into an exploration of divorce and relationships with best friends and not so best friends. Amazing how something so small as lunch can be so frought with meaning. I'm going to keep this in mind when I'm packing my kindergartner's lunch from now on. Thanks for sharing this. I loved reading it.