School Lunch.

For the fourteen years of my schooling, my mother has prepared my school lunches. On each school day, she would wake up usually in pain – owing to spondylitis and arthritis. The kitchens that she has worked in have been measly dungeons, filled with smoke and heat. During the summer months, the heat from the gas stove would burn the skin on her hands, face, and her abdomen. In winters, the cold water would crack the skin on her knuckles. But, my sister and I have never missed a school day without lunch.

It has been on rare occasions that my father has cooked our school lunch. Perhaps for the length of a week but never close to a month. But, my sister and I have never missed a school day without lunch.

I used to have this “friend” with whom my friends and I would eat our lunch with. She was not a regular member of our group. She had joined the group because she had no one else to eat with. Usually, her lunchbox would have Indian bread along with a mango or a lemon pickle. This state of her lunch arose sympathy among my friends. But, I never liked her for two reasons. One, she was a gossipmonger and two, she used to take more than her share from my lunch. This is not acceptable, not in any codes of conduct in a public school.

When I took out my lunch box, it smelled of the overflowing juices from the boiled lettuce. Not only had my lunch ruined my appetite but it had also ruined my class books. Pages after pages were soaked wet in green slimy liquid. It was a pathetic scene. And, I started crying.

Today, my mother gave me two Indian bread rolls with fruit jam.

When I opened my lunch today, I was ashamed. I did not want my friends to see my lunch. I could not share the rolls nor did I want them thinking that my parents didn’t love me.

I fought with them for no reason so I could sit alone and eat.

At least, I would not be ashamed.

Written for an exercise in Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

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