School Lunches

I re-read Ann Lamott’s chapter in Bird by Bird yesterday with a literacy coach I am planning writing pd with at her elementary school.

Here’s a small moment:

Steamed All Morning

When I was in second grade at Graggland, in Memphis, Tennessee, the cafeteria seemed to me a huge place — with its stainless-steel tray sliders and big glass windows that displayed enormous steam trays — a place where large, anonymous figures with hairnets and aprons presided over filling the depressions in your plate.

As I bumbled against the wall with the kids, my class becoming the lunch line, a metallic smell reached me.  It was at once dank and vinegary, an odor that overpowered every other kitchen smell. I thought to myself, “Ewww, canned spinach.”

I moved near the steam tables with dread, up close to the stink source – A seven-year old who watched helplessly as the large hair-netted figure’s arm wielded a massive spoonful of the stuff — the load was lifted into the air, paused briefly at the top in its green immensity– then aimed down at one square in my plate.

“Plop!” The spinach landed. The dark swampy juices seeped back to the surface after the impact, getting green stuff on the mashed potatoes.

I did not breathe as I got my milk and turned in my ticket. My skinny arms held my tray far away from my chest and I tried not to look at the oily shine.  Making my way to the desk seats, side-by-side with another second grader, I began to wonder, “Is there any way to hide this?  Or get rid of it?”

There was another large figure who patrolled the aisles.  She may have had other things to do, but I viewed her as the Spinach Police.



3 thoughts on “School Lunches”

  1. Oh my! How I relate to this. I dreaded school lunches on certain days. One horrid meal was some sort of gravy over biscuits. To this day, I do not eat gravy. Some days were not bad. I don’t know what they did to the peanut butter…but it was wonderful. Thanks for bringing back good (and some not so good) memories of school lunches. Jackie

  2. Yuck! Your pacing and descriptions in this piece are perfect – made my stomach hurt and made me laugh all at once. Gross. I can imagine a 7 year old you, holding that tray as far from your body as possible. Great Slice.

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