It's almost the end of the school year in these parts. Only a few more days. Five? Five more days? And then Jason's home for the summer? Oh my goodness gracious. Summer.
Over at PBN, they're asking about favorite cafeteria stories now that soon all these little school aged kiddos will be free of that perilous place. The first thing I think of when I hear the word "cafeteria" is a paper I wrote in college about my first day at a new school. (I was going to post it here, but it's really really awful. As in, awful writing. My pride prevents me from letting you see this atrocious piece of work.)
Since I'm all distracted by thinking about summer, let me just give you the run down of the story that might give you just a hint of the kind of person I was back in my cafeteria days.
- My junior year in high school I transferred to a new school, and that first day of lunch was traumatic. The whole experience of walking into the cafeteria still plays in slow motion in my head. Going through the double doors. The sea of unfamiliar faces. The chatter of everyone catching up on their summer stories. The tables with no extra chairs. Over there, back by the food line, there's an empty chair, not really at a table but turned away enough from the general crowd to be unnoticed. Unnoticed, but not invisible, which is exactly what I wanted to be at that moment. Could I make it to the chair? Would I faint from the terror? I walked past everyone and made it to the chair, feeling sick and not hungry a bit. I glanced around and after a moment I walked out, headed to my car, and ate lunch there. In fact, I ate lunch in my car for the first month of school.
- After a month of eating lunches in my car, I decided that I wasn't going to stick around at this new school. The bell rang, and I got in my car and started driving north. Soon enough I was out of Portland and back into Washington. Stopped by my old high school, said, "Hey! I'm sick of the new school, and so I'm driving off into the sunset." They all wished me good luck and off I drove, on my way to Seattle with no plans, no money, and only a full tank of gas in my Chevy Nova to take me wherever I was going. At some point, I figured I was going to get into a lot of trouble if my parents found out about this little escapade, plus my siblings would need a ride home from school. The thought of them wondering where I was, being frightened that they had been abandoned at their new school, broke my heart, and so after an hour of driving I turned around and headed back to school. I got there just in time to make the last class of the day, where I was a teacher's assistant for a computer class. During class I managed to hack into the school's attendance records where I changed the records to show that I had been at school all day so that the attendance office wouldn't call my parents. They never found out. Until. just. now.
So, there you go. A blast from my high school cafeteria past. The upside is I turned out okay, mostly. And I did end up making friends at the new school. Even a boyfriend, who I later married. There's the happy ending.
Thinking about my own school experiences makes me (1) rather fearful about ever sending Sydney to school, and (2) grateful that there are web sites that are trying to make things just a little bit easier for kids tromping through the cafeteria lines. 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. The Family Everyday site has recipes (recipes! woo!), and School Menu links to local schools to show you what's being served for lunch that day. You can even sign up for the newsletter and they'll email you stuff about lunch and food and everything that could make your life a little bit easier. Heck, maybe knowing what's being served for lunch will give your kid the info they need to find a friend in the cafeteria: "Hey! Did you see we're having enchiladas for lunch today? Let's be best friends!" Or you know, something like that.