Saturday, January 24, 2009

I like to call it "The Caprisun Complex"

I carried a brown sack lunch in my bag for ten consecutive years.

At elementary school we all sat in the same spot everyday at the lunch table. The boy who sat across from me, Corbin, had Lunchables everyday. He didn’t eat the cheese and would nibble the chocolate off his Reeses before getting to the peanut butter core. The boy sitting next to him, Alex, had Snack Pac puddings. He would lay his spoon aside after using the end to poke a hole in top. He would then proceed to squeeze the pudding out of the hole and suck it off. One girl got “hot lunch” and I envied her processed chicken nuggets and fake mashed potatoes. Kelsey had a yellow insulated lunch box from Old Navy. Krista had Caprisuns.

I had thick slices of dry homemade bread with Flavorite peanut butter and homemade jam packed neatly in a baggie that didn’t even have a zipper. It folded.

Previous years had taught me to actually let my sandwiches get smashed. This let the dry bread soak up the jam so I could get my sandwich down without a Caprisun.

In more prosperous years my lunches had powdered Tang (bought in bulk) at the bottom of my thermos, waiting to be turned to liquid gold at the drinking fountain. That year it was just the drinking fountain.

Other kids had Go-Gurts. We often had homemade applesauce or pudding in tupperware. Instead of plastic spoons we were given a spoon from the silverware drawer and told to bring it back. Spoons often graced my back pocket during recess.

Before this there were days when I just couldn’t stand to eat yet another dry homemade sandwich. On those days I took one of three options. 1) Trade my sandwich. 2) Return home with my sandwich (and get sent out with the same one the next day…only dryer). 3) Throw my sandwich, and its folded plastic bag, away.

That year I began throwing my sandwich, and sometimes other parts of my lunch, away regularly. Sometimes I would skip eating at lunch and save my lunch until the bus ride home. Sometimes I would just skip eating all together and wait until I got home, leaving the brown sacks to pile up in my backpack until they molded and were thrown away in secret at home. I was embarrassed and sick of my lunches.

One morning my mom packed lunches for us kids and then packed herself a lunch for the six hour bus-ride she would take, alone, to the Seattle Temple and back.

I can still remember exactly what she had in her lunch that day.

Graham crackers spread with peanut butter and a few baby carrots.

That was all she felt our family could afford for her lunch that day.

My lunch had all the usuals and there I was throwing away my lunches or letting them collect mold and scatter crumbs in my backpack while my mother gave me all she had.

I was under the impression mothers sacrificing their own food for their children only occurred in foreign countries or those pathetic Christmas stories meant to make you realize how selfish you were for wanting presents.

I’d like to say that was the day I decided to never throw my lunches away again. It wasn’t. A clear vision of my sixth grade locker with weeks worth of brown sack lunches stuffed at the bottom comes to mind.

I would like to say it was the last time something like this happened. But a memory of my mom getting me French fries with my hamburger instead of getting herself a hamburger (and then lying about it) because she didn’t have enough cash on hand, comes to mind. I sobbed while I ate my French fries. Mixing the salt of my tears with the salt of the fries in my mouth.

But I can say this:

Brown bag lunches have accompanied me through years of side ponytails, awkward maturing years, and into high school. And they accompany me now. Lecture halls, study sessions, and long hours at the library have all felt the company of my brown sack lunches, while I felt their bulk in my bag resting on my hip. Rarely can I pull out a smashed PB&J, the bread now bought in uniform loaves, without thinking of home, of sacrifice, of hard years survived, of love, and of my mom.

And that is why I love brown sack lunches. Because the lessons they have to offer are far more valuable than a Caprisun could ever give.

* I still love Caprisuns. The last couple times I have been grocery shopping with my Mom I have asked for Caprisuns. She still won’t get them. Neither will my kids. And thankfully the “Caprisun Complex” will continue.


Neighbor Jane Payne said...

OHHHHHHHHH ANDE! This made me laugh and laugh . . . and then I got to the part where it flipped and you made me look like a saint and it is completely unfounded and well, sufficeth me to say, I loved this and the memories you captured for all of us.

I laughed hard when I read it aloud to your dad and Cali laughed even harder when she had me read it to her. I can hardly wait to read Abe's response. Those were terrible lunches, weren't they? But did you know they only cost 28 cents and that included the napkin? :)

Oh ho. How funny. Which reminds me. Remember when you were home (yes, I'm sure you do) and we were in WalMart and you told me how much you loved Caprisuns and I "uh-huhed" and kept on pushing our cart to the flour aisle and you said, "No, mom, I don't think you understand. I REALLY love Caprisuns. Could we get some?" And I told you they were a terrible waste of money and kept us focused on the next aisle? I GET IT NOW. I had no idea.

Thanks for the funny post. You are a gifted writer.

tina said...

Sheesh, I am feeling a little guilty that I do pack Capri Suns in my son's lunch! We get them at Costco (40 at a time!) and we only allow them for lunch. Last year, we did thermos with tang or Kool-aid, but the thermos started leaking and it was always a sticky mess! I do send peaches, pineapple or applesauce in plastic containers, though. We have zoo pals plastic spoons which do need to come back home.

The other day, Gunnar's insulated lunch box was in the truck and not at home. I told him he was going to have to take PB&J in a brown sack and I thought he was going to NOT eat! Luckily for him, I found his old insulated lunch box from last year so he could take his turkey sandwich and go-gurt. I suppose I am going to have to find something else profound for him to learn some life lessons because I have ruined him on the lunch thing!

I love your writing, Ande. It's great! Your family is certainly talented that way and I love how your mom is a great teacher, even when she thinks she's not! Thanks for sharing.

Cali said...

Oh Ande,

I cannot even tell you how hard this made me laugh. It made miss those lunches (how on earth could a person miss them?) It made me want to eat a smashed DRY sandwitch (even worse on the days when there wasn't any jam... just PB). It made me miss you. I love you. Thanks for that belly laugh (with a small snort) and the realization that even a horrible sack lunch eventually becomes funny (not funny at the time, though).


Cali said...

Ande....I swear that banana on your last post keeps getting browner the longer it sits there.

Cali said...

Oh, I forgot. Did mom still make you carry those in high school? I hope not. I just want to paint for you the picture of what THAT looked like for me. You drive with all your friends to taco bell. They all get a meal. You sit with them at the taco bell table. while they all have trays with taco bell food, you pull out your brown bag. Even worse still you pull a dry sandwich out of that brown bag. You look at the taco bell condiments counter and see if there's ANYTHING that could go on your sandwich or lube your throat. Only hot sauce. Hopefully your friends know the heimlich.


Ande Payne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ande Payne said...

Cali, yes I had them my freshman and sophmore years. I drew the line after that. Although I never pulled them out at taco bell. You win.

Ande Payne said...

Yes Mom, I CLEARLY remember that trip to WalMart.

Tina, maybe one day your kids will write a blog post with a complex because they never had brown sacks, just caprisuns? Thanks for the compliments.

Cali, remember when we would put honey on them too to make the bread caramelize to make them even less dry and more edible? I'm glad this is a laughing subject now too.

And yes...I actually had that same thought about my banana. Weird. It started out green...just how we like 'em.

Thank you for the great comments and for reading!

Darla said...

Ande, Ande, Ande,....I love your blog.. Oh how I laughed.. I can remember carrying that brown bag & watching the others have hot lunch too!! Here's one for you.. My family only got to eat out maybe once a month if that .. We'd either get Chicos' pizza or there was a sub sandwich shop that used to be where the Mom & Pop's Hamburger joint is now. And with the treat we also got pop.. That sounds kind of funny but I'm serious.. We never had pop in our house .... Diet Coke is a staple for me now *lol*... Thanks for the memories...

Cassidy said...

Oh Ande!! I am so there!! Although I must say, I never got homemade bread. What I would've given for homemade bread. And your mom made them! What I would've given for that! My mom made ME make not only MINE, but GOLDEN'S!!!! I never got Caprisun's either. *tear*. Or fruit snacks. . . But my parents buy them for the Grandkids. . . . I'm there with you girl! I also never had a thermos. I must've resorted to the drinking fountain too. . . Some days I *stole* change from my mom's coin jar above the washer so that I could get a "hot lunch". haha. oh the times. the memories. LOVE IT.

Cassidy said...

So after reading your blog and laughing, Bo insisted on reading it too. His comment? "That is so true. I think ever poor 'farm kid' had the same kind of lunch." haha. His favorite part is the folded plastic bags. Oh the days.

abe said...


ha ha. i hated those sandwiches with a passion. i don't think i ever ate more than matter how hungry i was. i loved it when i was able to sucker somebody in to trading for mine. or the week when i got to help in the cafeteria at school so i could eat hot lunches. i always volunteered to help. the worst part was that i always got carrot sticks with them, and carrots aren't known to be super juicy. so after eating a dry sandwich, i would have to try and choke down carrots. i never ate more than half my carrots either. we always had pretty decent treats though. and we could always trade the fruit leather mom made for us. great blog post! i love you.


Julie said...

Ande, You are such a talented writer! However, I can't believe your mom has ever made dry bread in her life! My kids will have the same stories about their brown bag lunches too. I hope they learn a lesson of some sort and don't need therapy. They get a sandwich, applesauce, string cheese, and if they are lucky a cookie. No caprisuns here either. I'll have to ask if the sandwich is dry. Claire actually 'confessed' the other day that she has been using her lunch account (supposed to be only for emergencies) to get mini cheesecakes. I told her thanks for telling the truth and she could get one a week. I also love that your mom knows exactly the cost of your lunches. Thanks for sharing!

HeatherM said...

This post cracked me up - from the post to the comments, I have been laughing since the beginning. I have to tell you, though. It's the "grass is greener" complex. As I was trying to choke down my hot lunch, including mystery casserole, cold-ish milk, and soggy tater tots; I was so jealous of my friend who brought lunch in her Holly Hobby lunchbox. Whether it was a sandwich, or those special days she got hot soup in her Holly Hobby thermos, it was almost always better than what we got. Based on your post, why didn't I just offer to trade her????

Greg and Gwen said...

HA HA!!! As I was reading this I decided I must be really wierd because I remember always wishing I could have a sack lunch like Cali's instead of having to eat hot lunch! Probably because I was so envious of that homemade bread....your house always smelled like bread and I LOVED it! Great Memories!!!

Nikki said...

Wow Ande! You definitely share your mother's talent for writing. I absolutely LOVED this post. It very much reminds me of my brown bag lunches and the folded over sandwich bags. I hated those and had ziploc-envy.

Yesterday I bought two boxes of Caprisuns to go in our 72 hour kits. The kids begged and begged me to do it and then were so excited! They know that when we buy stuff for the 72-hour kits, they get to eat the almost expired stuff. haha

Lyle and Mary: said...

Wow, if I had know your mother was trying to build character like that I would have just sent two Caprisuns in Krista's lunch so she could share with you. My kids felt deprived because I said I wouldn't pay for McDonals or Taco Bell when I could make their luch for 50 cents. They felt picked on too.