April 13, 2006

An excerpt from The Red Plaid Lunch Box!

04-13-06-Looking for a Mother's Day book? Check out Free Pecan Pie and Other Chick Stories!

An excerpt from one of the stories:
The Red Plaid Lunch Box

The last time I browsed the antique shops I came across a red plaid metal lunch box with a matching red plaid Thermos from the 50s. It brought back a flood of memories because I had one just like it when I was in the third grade living in the middle of Oklahoma. When I took it off the store shelf and opened it, the smell of waxed paper and tuna fish still lingered.
Mom was barely hanging on when I had mine. A victim of a previous violent marriage, family politics, and physical disabilities, she was like a beautiful autumn leaf caught in a storm drain, spinning around and around in treacherous whirlpools—but never going down.
I knew she loved me. There was never any doubt about that, but she could barely care for herself, much less take care of me.
My father and stepmother lived across town. I always had the option to go and live with them. They were both employed, and the meals were regular. Even if I had wanted to live with them—which I definitely didn’t—how could I have left my mom? It wouldn’t have taken a Whiz Kid to know grandmother and the rest of the family would pick her to death if I weren’t there to protect her.
One step above homeless, Mom and I bumped around from one relative’s home to another. Our latest move was to my grandmother’s. Before the lunch box, Mom didn’t wake up before I left for school. My grandmother told me that she seldom bothered to get up before eleven-thirty or so. Mom’s sleeping habits meant that sometimes I not only went without lunch, but without breakfast, unless my grandmother shared some of hers. Nowadays doctors might say Mom suffered from depression. I’ve often wondered.
I don’t know why things got better for awhile during my third grade, but one day I came home and saw that little red lunch box on the counter. I was mesmerized by the shiny exterior and the clean white interior—the way the Thermos fit in just so.
The next morning, Mom was up bright and early wrapping little food treasures in wax paper. A sandwich. Celery. Carrots. Half an apple. Mom was never much of a baker, but a few times, I found a cupcake made from one of those mixes that used to cost a dime a box.
The little metal box became a barometer of my mother’s mental health. If I carried it to school, I knew that Mom was going to have a good day. I carried more than food in that metal container. It was a contract. A contract that said Mom was going to be there, really there, for the rest of the day, at least. When I got home that day, she’d be dressed and smiling.She made a little bit of money sewing for rich people that year. She was developing a list of clients and was excited about it. Mom sewed beautifully, but her customers never stuck around for very long. I never knew why. Still don’t.
Quote du jour:
“The desire to write grows with writing.” Erasmus

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