Day 14: School Lunch

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Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Fourteen.

I had a great childhood. I grew up a hippie kid, of hippie parents.

My mom baked bread. As a matter of fact, the giant earthenware bowl she used when I was a child now graces my own kitchen. (It’s one of my favorite bowls. And I like bowls. But that’s a discussion for another day.) My mom baked bread. She baked bread, made jam from the plums growing in our backyard, and made fruit leather in our dehydrator. She ran a food co-op with the other women in our sunny California neighborhood, and it was always a fun day when the giant containers of cheese and grains would arrive in their big, heavy bags and boxes, ready to be parsed out and divided. We raised chickens, and one my jobs was to collect the eggs every day, which we would sell to the neighbors. We had enough eggs for all our neighbors. My dad hunted, and our freezer was full of venison, pheasant, duck and stripped bass. We had a vegetable garden with zucchini the size of my thighs, and more tomatoes than we could eat. We had a milk-man, for heaven’s sake! A real milk man who would deliver milk to our door when I was little. I lived in a little corner of heaven.

So do you think I got school lunch? I would have traded everything in my lunch sack for a bite of a single ho-ho. I would have given up my whole-wheat baked honey bread with fresh ground peanut butter and sun-dried plum fruit leather for a mere corner of a ho-ho. I would have traded an entire week of fresh applesauce for a slice of the deliciously greasy, salty, overcooked and soggy sausage pizza my friends inhaled every Friday. I wasn’t even allowed to get chocolate milk.

No one wanted to trade me anything.

Every day, I would sit with my healthy, homemade, wholesome, healthy food spread before me on the formica lunch table, and stare forlornly at the brightly colored, food dye #4, processed, salted, chemical laden joy my friends got to eat. And I would open my brown sack,  peel my brown banana and stare at my brown-bread sandwich, with egg salad from my brown chickens who laid brown eggs.

I felt like the most mistreated, unloved child in the whole world.

Then I would ride my bike home, climb the avocado tree in my yard, sit on top of the chicken coop and pick plums, feed the goat, play with the eight puppies the labrador retriever just had, fetch some more eggs for dinner, hand another dozen over the back fence to Burgie, the neighbor, pick some tangerines to eat while I held the rabbit, and climbed the fence to snatch some cherries from the neighbors tree. All before dinner.

After dinner we’d go for another bike ride with my aunt and cousins and siblings and a few neighbor kids, collecting aluminum cans from the neighborhood to recycle, which was always used to pay for our next tickets to Disneyland. Maybe we’d play hide and seek when we got back, and sometimes the moms would join us until it was too dark.

I grew up a hippie kid. Maybe missing out on the ho-hos wasn’t so bad. But don’t try and tell that to a second-grade kid.