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Friday, October 8, 2010

School Lunch

If you ever want to feel like a celebrity, join a first grader for school lunch. Don't worry about whether the chairs will be comfortable (not too bad) or the food will be palatable (it won't). None of that will matter once you undergo your superstar transformation. Grandparents Day came two days after we left Muncie, so we were allowed to lunch at Suzannah's school last Tuesday.
When I looked knocked at the classroom door, Suzie spotted Steve and I through the window. She stretched up tall, waving and waving, about to burst out of her skin. The teacher invited us in and called Suzie to be line leader and, what's more, in our honor, allowed her BFF, Brienna, to stand with her. I mean, how much more power could fame have than that?
The children are supposed to stand quietly in line, but we caused way too much excitement for that. One little boy skipped out to offer his left hand and introduce himself. I told him I was Nana and took his hand with my right. He sweetly shook his head and said, "Nope, wrong hand!" I corrected myself and shook left to left. Then hands were extended to me from all directions as every kid wanted to be recognized. I felt like President Obama working a campaign line.
Do you have any idea how long it's been since I ate in an elementary cafeteria? No more the hard wooden chairs of my youth. One plunks one's bottom down on a seat that grows from a curved up table leg. It was surprisingly comfortable! Steve sat on the end, then Suzannah, then me, then Brienna. I thought I was going to talk to Suzie, but I was mistaken. Between sound bites of Brienna's engaging monologue, an entire table of children told me their names, what their favorite subject was and demonstrated clapping rhymes. I hardly had time to take a bite which was okay because lunch was, well, school lunch.
No one had ordered the "alternate" lunch of barbequed turkey. (Would you?) With one or two home-packed exceptions, hamburgers, milk (white, chocolate or strawberry), French fries and canned pineapple were served on identical trays as far as the eye could see. One bite of my hamburger (cooked elsewhere and reheated at the school) was enough. I passed the rest to Steve (even though, "you're not allowed to share"). The mixed vegetables had been slathered with butter which made them really good! I ate mine up. Unlike most of the children, Suzie is a good eater. She usually brings a lunch box so eating school lunch was a treat. She ate half her hamburger, some fries and her fruit but no veggies. The little boy across from us ate only his French fries. His two best friends (he identified them as such three times) flanked him. One ate only the cup of pineapple and the other ate (are you ready?) nothing. I looked down the double rows of trays at the table. Not one serving of vegetables was touched. I was amazed that these kids buy lunch ($2.40 per day) every day, and their parents don't wonder about what or whether they eat. It was crazy.
Our star status didn't end with lunch. Our royal presence was demanded on the playground to watch four little girls hang run and hang and slide and climb and play Scooby Doo. Our departure was treated with sad faces and sighs. If only we could have cajoled a few six-year-olds into eating a bite of peas and carrots, I would have felt we had used our power for good.

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