It was my twenty year high school reunion on the weekend! It was so much fun, all the people were great - even better than I remembered - and there was a lot of laughter and wine, two of my favourite things. Someone had mentioned the cafeteria, and I had to squint a little and think really hard and I finally, finally recalled the large chilly room where students could buy lunch or eat a bagged lunch from home, all those tables where the various groups of kids would hang out, separate but together.
I transferred schools in Grade Eleven when our family moved into a different community. I took a bus 45 minutes each way, except for when I sweet talked my parents into letting me take the car, usually on days that I would have afterschool drama rehearsals. I had been able to walk home for lunch all through elementary and junior high, and because that was the norm there was no real cafeteria option. All the kids went home for lunch in my elementary school. There was an "eat in the gym" option at my junior high, but I don't recall being able to purchase any real lunch items. There was a vending machine with pop and a "snack shack" where you could buy chips and candy, but I can't remember there being any semi-healthy options available. Much of the time I would just walk home for lunch anyway, and have Kraft Dinner or soup and a sandwich, prepared by my mother.
It did seem exciting then, when I was in high school, to have a bona fide cafeteria. I don't remember ever buying a hot lunch at the cafeteria although they were available; pizzas, hamburgers, chili, french fries. The only thing I ever recall buying for lunch was a submarine sandwich on Tuesdays. It couldn't have been that great: probably a white bun with cold cuts and processed cheese, sliced tomato and lettuce, with mayo and mustard. But it was exciting to actually buy a lunch from a real-life cafeteria.
Of course, I found it exciting when I went to junior high and there were actual classrooms with doors. My elementary school was one of those open-concept schools; a terrible hippie brainchild if ever there was one. An elementary school with no classrooms, no walls, no doors? I'm not sure there can be a worse educational idea, logistically speaking. So I was easily pleased, is what I'm saying, and I really enjoyed Sub Day at the cafeteria.
No matter how hard I think, I cannot remember what I would have eaten on the other four days of school. What would I have taken for lunch? I'm fairly sure I would have packed my own lunches by then, but what would I have eaten? I don't know. A peanut butter sandwich, maybe? An apple? I cannot recall a single example, not one.
I wonder if this will happen to my kids in thirty years, if they will draw complete blanks on whole parts of their school experience. They will probably never remember the lunches I make or know how I spent hours and hours slicing fruit and baking snacks and putting crackers into little plastic containers, but maybe they'll just think back fondly on these days of their childhood, these carefree happy days, and feel nourished.