Wednesday, October 5, 2016

keeping lunch warm

When I was a little girl I walked home alone from school to eat lunch at our kitchen table.  Not every day but often enough.

The neighborhood I grew up in doesn't exist anymore. Well, really neither does the world where an 8 year old child can walk right out the front doors of her elementary school without checking out and walk home alone.

Sure, the houses are there, those that haven't been scraped from their foundations and replaced with awkward McMansions crammed into tiny suburban lots.

The tree-lined streets are there.

The perfect lawns and stone streetlights remain but the school building was torn down and remade modern.

Throughout the years the charm of what made the neighborhood what it was has been consumed by the clammer to own a piece of its perfectness. A good deal of what was so loved was destroyed by the very people buying in.

It has become a place lost to greed and money. A casualty of the American war with the Jones.

But back when it was young, Harvard-Yale, as it is known around the city was the perfect place to raise a middle-class family- if you were Mormon. And we were.

There wasn't one thing wrong with the childhood its backdrop fostered. A childhood ladened with corner lot pocket parks to play in.  Long stretches of unfenced front lawns to run across. Shady sidewalks to rollerskate over. Wide quiet black roads to bike on. And kids- there were so many kids.

There in the middle of that world, I remember slipping out of the double front doors of the school right into the day.

Skipping down the chipped tile steps into the sunlight. Away from the rich but foreign smells drifting down the long hallways from the cafeteria.

It felt delicious to be out when no one else was. Our house was 2 short blocks from the school.  I would run the whole way home; not out of fear but out of freedom.

My mom, like most of the moms in the 70's in Harvard-Yale, was a stay at home mom.

I would come in breathless.  She would set the table for me with thick rubbery Disneyland placemats under bowls of hot chicken noodle soup. Beside them a sleeve of soda crackers, a neat row of apple slices, and a tall glass of homemade grape juice.

I would eat and she would work in the kitchen sweeping or mopping around me while on the radio Paul Harvey's voice crackled out. It would mix with the afternoon sunlight and the smell of greasy soup.

So this is the moment I chase.  The feeling. The alone, stepping out of the rush of the day and into a quiet safe place for just a little while.

Every time I am asked the deeper reasons behind our decision to homeschool I think about hot lunches at home with my mother near by.

Behind that moment and those feelings, is a way of life, a belief that children belong with their parents. Not forever and not always but a lot longer than we give them around here these days.

You know it never occurred to me as a little kid, that being the youngest finally off at school to have me return for lunch was probably a giant pain in my mom's ass.

She greeted me lovingly each time. Never short or rushed. Hovering nearby while ate.

Then seeing me off, back up the street in the direction of school when it was time for me to return.

Standing in my mother's shoes I see how it was both a giant pain and a blessing.  I believe my mom, a woman who scarcely had a childhood herself, really understood how fleeting childhood is. She knew.

What I hope I am doing in preserving this ritual of a hot sit-down lunch together is providing my child the same shelter my mom gave to me.

In a busy modern world, it is far too easy to blow off the small moment and let hot lunch grow cold.

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