I have a memory from my childhood that plays in my head like I’m watching a sitcom on TV. My dad, my brother and I are in the kitchen of our house in Decatur, cleaning up after lunch. Dad was washing, I was drying, and Locke was putting things up. All of a sudden, in the midst of our normal, everyday banter, Locke said, “We’re as funny as the Cosbys.”
I know, I know. That observation did not age well. But keep in mind, it was 1987. Our Thursday nights revolved around watching The Cosby Show, and apparently Locke and I thought they were the epitome of good-hearted family fun. It was quite an honor to be compared to them.
It’s just funny to me how that moment stands out so clearly, 34 years later. And that moment stands for so much more in my memories. It takes me back to hot summer days in Atlanta, eating Chef Boyardee Ravioli and drinking Cherry Coke with my dad. Helping him do the dishes every day after we ate because that was his contribution to the household chores now that my mom had gone back to work (to help get him through seminary). Watching Perry Mason in reruns on TBS. (Yep, another benefit of living in Atlanta, TBS without having to have cable!)
I think those lunches stand out because it was something new. Before we moved to seminary, my mom stayed home with us while my dad went to work during the day. I was used to PB&J and storytime with mom. Now things were different. Dad was home during the day! We now ate things out of a can instead of PB&J! We made Kool-Aid! It definitely made an impression.
Last week, both Caroline and Carter went back to school in-person, every day. It is the first time they’ve been to school every day of the week since this time last year. There are a lot of reasons I was looking forward to them going to school full time, and a lot of things I’ll miss about having them here with me. But our lunches may be one of the things I’ll miss the most.
When I went to the grocery store last week, I paused a minute at the realization that I had to buy more turkey for Carter to pack sandwiches. The same old thing, every day, again. No more chicken fajitas, individual pizzas loaded with cheese, or nachos made with leftover taco meat. Somehow, during the pandemic, our lunches got a little more creative than before. I used to be a PB&J mom like my mother. But the kids are older now, with their own opinions on what to eat, and an ability to cook as well! We even took a page out of my dad’s playbook, and Chef Boyardee became a staple of our pantry.
When it was warm enough and not raining, we ate outside. We watched CNN10 or the previous night’s Late Show monologue on my phone. We caught up on what the kids had done on their remote learning assignments in the morning. And we’d wrap it up with some “play” time before going back to work — jump rope, frisbee, riding bikes, or shooting hoops.
I can only hope that 30-some years from now, Caroline and Carter will look back on those lunch times with fond memories. Just like my lunches in Decatur, the lunches of the pandemic were symbolic of a change, a new family pattern. And it’s those times of change that make an impact. It’s comforting to know that in this year of COVID, with all the stress, upheaval, and frustrations, there is some good that’s come out of it. Memories of lunch times spent together will only be a small part of what they remember. But hopefully it’s a good part.