Tales From the School Cafeteria

standard June 6, 2007 2 responses

“Hey! Thanks! You got me an apple!” My friend sits across the table from me and grabs my apple off my tray. He smiles at me and bites into it with relish. He’s done this every day for the past year. For a few weeks I made a big show about trying to get my apple back, but now I just laugh and let him take what is mine. When I really want an apple I just get two and call it a day. It’s our daily exchange, almost like a check-in. “You ok?” “I’m ok.” All’s well with the world. If I forget to get an apple he knows that I’m not well, if he forgets to steal it I know to ask what’s bothering him.

I can still picture the day that he got his first set of braces. The huge cafeteria windows let the sun stream in over the long white tables. The lines of students holding plastic trays snake all the way around the room. Kids are waiting impatiently to get their food, jostling each other and cracking jokes. Undoubtedly it’s something run of the mill like Salisbury Steak and fries or Chicken Cordon Bleu and mashed potatoes. (What can I say? I went to school in France.) The jaded cafeteria monitors stand at the head of the line, making sure that the workers aren’t swamped with too many kids at once.

My friend bounces in with his usual exuberance and throws himself into the chair across the table from me. Before I can say anything he grabs the apple and bites a huge chunk out of its shiny red flesh. I cringe and reach out my hand, but I’m way too late. The newly tightened braces have already done their damage. Pain etches itself across his face and his eyes well with tears. And in that split second I’m torn between crushing guilt, after all I did buy the apple knowing full well that he would steal it from me, and glee, revenge after all of these months of stolen apples! Guilt wins quickly, I am a big old softy after all, and I rush to his aid, but there’s nothing I can do to help. He stands up and stumbles out of the cafeteria rubbing his sore jaw. I watch him leave, sadness spreading over me.

He never stole another apple from me and though it was nearly 15 years ago, I still often find myself choosing an apple to accompany my lunch even though I rarely eat them. Those stranded apples on my desk remind me of this friend I rarely get to see. I smile when I see them and wonder what he’s up to on the other side of the world.

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Back when I frequented school cafeterias there were no cool websites to help my mom know what we were having for lunch. Not that it would have mattered, I’m pretty sure not a whole lot of thought was given to nutrition or balanced meals. (Of course, my memory is pretty selective, but I distinctly remember a lot of french fries, pizza, and breaded meats.) Nowadays moms have amazing resources at their fingertips. I almost can’t wait until C is old enough to create her own cafeteria memories, but I’m sure I’ll find a way.

Check out School Menu and its parental counterpart Family Everyday, two sites that work together with School Food Services Directors to provide and promote healthy eating and physical fitness for kids and their parents.

School Menu is a fun kids site that offers games and great tips to get you and your kids moving and eating well. Moms can even win a gift certificate! Click on the Your School Menu link to get access to your child’s weekly cafeteria menu. (If you are anything like me I’m sure you’ll want to avoid serving up corn dogs for dinner on the same day they had them for lunch…)

Family Everyday provides busy moms with helpful parenting tips, healthy recipes, and fun games, you know, for all that spare time you have during the day. Hey, sign up for the emails and see if the parenting tips can score you a free minute or two each day for a stimulating game of Sudoku!

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