Food, and the making of it, is one of those odd ways a mother shows her love. So a lunch box is packed full, with more items than a child could ever eat in one meal, especially when a one-year-old is sent to daycare while Mommy goes to work. Once I overheard the daycare teacher joke about another child whose mother sent a "buffet" for his lunch. They laughed at the mighty meal. But I understood.
In elementary school, I still got to pack -- minus the love notes. And no more occasional candy treats, because the school didn't allow that. That was OK. I was always into healthy lunches. Sandwiches on whole wheat or multi-grain. Lots of fresh fruit. 100 percent juice. Terra chips.
Eventually, in those middle elementary years, my son started complaining that he never had "anything good" in his lunch. He meant no Doritos or fruit roll-ups or Oreos or Gatorade. I tried explaining he had lots of good stuff and that other stuff was junk food. But over time, I relented, and he got those items now and then.
By middle school, he was insistent on buying lunch. Taking a packed lunch wasn't cool. Other mothers were delighted when they no longer had to send a lunch. Secretly, I was heartbroken. He was growing up, and I was a little less relevant in his life.
That's why Philadelphia Inquirer food editor Maureen Fitzgerald's piece "For 21 years, packing a little love with lunch" touched a soft spot. I completely related and am a little envious she got to keep at it for 21 years compared to my short 11 years. Her story brought back a flood of memories. And it made me realize how much a I enjoy those rare moments now when I can pack a lunch and "a little love" for a field trip or week at camp -- even if this LOL has to wake up a half hour early.
Photo credit: www.iStockphoto.com/jskiba