I was window-shopping, or to be politically correct, I was browsing through a store near my house, the other day, when I reached the household section and for no reasonable reason, I began drooling over the collection of snack boxes on display.
“How cute is that!” I thought as I turned them around in my hands. There were happy scenes painted on them – birds and flowers and butterflies flitting around which make one think of long drives and picnics out in the countryside. Well, sweet dreams are made of these anyway!
We didn’t have so much variety in lunch boxes, when my twins were going to school all those years ago. Back then, weekday mornings were as chaotic as they came with breakfast to get and four lunch boxes to assemble – 2 for the little boys, 1 for the big boy and 1 for myself.
The husband being a good boy, took what he got silently, but the little boys were something else. They were picky to a point, and most times the boxes came back in the evening with the contents still inside. Then I would look at the boys and they would look back at me and we all three would look at the offending items in the kitchen sink. One day I sat them down and had a mommy talk about how important it was not to stay on an empty stomach the whole day and how empty stomachs made for empty brains and all that. They listened patiently, nodding their heads like the Russian dolls in our show case! After that, believe it or not, the boxes began coming back neat and empty and boy, was I thrilled! I congratulated myself and went to town about how well I had handled the situation.
Until the next parent-teacher meeting, when their teacher said there was a little matter of lunch boxes to discuss. “Oh, yes!” I said happily. “They’re emptying them all right and tight, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are!” she replied. “Into the dustbin in class, before the final bell!”
My mouth dropped open and I turned to look at the culprits. Back home I let them have it left, right and centre – only in words, let me hasten to add before the child welfare authorities come a-knocking on my door. Rather belatedly I asked them for an explanation and the thing was – with only one PT period in the whole week, and a mere 15 minute break every day for lunch, they were not going to waste that by sitting in class munching when they would rather be outside playing.
Then, I improvised and started sending them things that they could hold in their hands and munch while still running around on the ground. That did seem to help, or so I fondly hoped. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss!
As the years went by, the number of snack boxes to prepare, dramatically came down, as first I left work and then the boys left home and it’s only the husband who takes his, these days. The morning chaotic routine has reduced tremendously but in spite of that I do admit to hoping for cheat days in between. Just as employees the world over look forward to paid holidays now and then, I wait for the occasional ‘no lunch-box’ day. When the husband announces casually in the evening that he might not need his box the next day because of some reason, I try not to show how thrilled I am and give him a casual ‘okay’, but on the inside it’s like Michael Jackson has started dancing!
On the last occasion, maybe my expression gave me away, because he remarked rather sarcastically that I was behaving as if I had a 7-course meal to prepare for his tiffin carrier on other days!
I usually have an apt comeback for every remark of his, but I let this one pass. I was in a generously good mood. No lunch box, remember!
This article was published in the Off the Cuff section of Gulf News.