Scenes from My Memoir: Never Trust a Big Red

big red

My very first day of kindergarten, I had my initiation into the trauma of school lunch. My mom and I found this new lunch tote, completely unlike the boring lunch boxes with the Smurfs or My Little Pony on its side. Instead, I picked out a lunch bag – a small, neon-orange, canvas duffel with turquoise piping and a matching thermos. Mid-Eighties fashion statement, anyone? Mistake #1.

The morning of school, my mom packed my lunch with all of the things I requested: a sandwich, a mini bag of Cheetos, and a thermos full of Big Red Soda. Yes, I said Big Red Soda. This is before the government decided parents really shouldn’t be packing their kids’ lunches (OK, so maybe this story supports these claims). Filling the thermos with Big Red Soda. Mistake #2.

I arrived at school on my first day, and my teacher showed me where I could find the locker with my name on a magnet in front, and I happily tossed my lunch tote inside, dreaming of the lunch hour and my Big Red soda. Tossing the bag. Mistake #3.

Lunchtime came, and the teacher initiated Kindergarten 101: The Line. The teacher’s aid helped all of us find our lockers again to locate our lunches. I grabbed my awesome lunch duffel bag and trotted over to the line. I heard the kid behind me say something about red on the floor. Then, I heard the teacher’s aid ask, “Who brought a red drink for lunch?” Realization started to sink in just as I looked down, noticing a little Hansel and Gretel trail from the locker row to classroom door, leading up to my canvas duffel bag bleeding Big Red Soda. Unbeknownst to me, the thermos in my bag did not get screwed on properly – causing a slow leak all over my lunch, locker, and classroom floor.

My first school lunch period consisted of me trying to salvage a Big Red-soaked bologna and cheese sandwich. Mostly, I just ate my Cheetos and tried to keep Big Red from leaking onto my new friends. Also crying. Lots of crying.

I quickly learned the only way to survive in public school was to blend in, and blending in meant eating the cafeteria food, even if you hated it.

The basis of my particular elementary school’s cafeteria meals started with the hot dog. We had a hot dog served in more ways than Oscar Mayer ever originally intended. The cafeteria ladies would print the menu for the week in our local paper, and the local radio station announced the lunch for the day in their morning broadcast. These ladies were wise in their years and knew the name, “Barbecued Sausages” sounded much more appetizing than “Shriveled Frankfurter Smothered in Cheap Barbecue Sauce.”

They didn’t stop there. We would have hot dogs mixed with Ranch Style Beans (not pork and beans because, well, I lived in Texas) or hot dogs sliced halfway in the middle and stuffed with some sort of cheese equivalent. Of course, we always had the standard half a pear, green peas, and chocolate milk to go along with the hot dog, rounding out the food groups. Never do I remember having a regular hot dog with a bun and mustard at the school cafeteria.

The next year on my first day of first grade, I ran to get in line after recess and promptly threw up my cafeteria lunch.

  1. #1 by Lauren@THCW on May 18, 2012 - 9:44 am

    I pack Rachel’s lunch every day, much to her chagrin. Sometimes, she saves up her allowance and buys her lunch. She really wants to “be a tray” like her friends. But mommy is too cheap (school lunches have gotten expensive). And I don’t really feel like paying $2.50 so she can eat half a hot dog and a bunch of french fries.

    That said, whenever I have to pack a drink that is not a juice box, I pack water. I have a great fear of colored beverages in sippy cups. I think if your story happened to Rachel, she would insist we homeschool.

    On a side note, when I read the title for your post, I thought you were going to tell a story about someone convincing you it was a good idea to lick a Big Red chewing gum wrapper and stick it to your forehead, like every moron I went to elementary school with. So many rectangular burn marks…

    [I don’t care what my username says. My website is HERE.]

  2. #2 by kellywiggains on May 18, 2012 - 10:12 am

    Maybe these memoir posts are turning into a testimonial, “Why I am homeschooling my kids.” It certainly didn’t start out that way, but I think my subconscious might have spurred the stories along.

  3. #3 by Heather G. on May 18, 2012 - 1:35 pm

    Love your stories, Kelly!

  4. #4 by Brienne F on May 19, 2012 - 10:13 pm

    I remember those hot dogs stuffed with cheese! They were nasty! Love reading your blog! Brings back good memories…minus the porch sitting!

  5. #5 by Beth on May 23, 2012 - 12:16 pm

    When I was in grade school we lived across the street from the school–yes,both. In second and third grades we were by Reagan, and in fourth and fifth across the playground from Travis. This worked out nicely for this picky eater because I got to go home for lunch every day. My best story from that happened during third grade. I came home for lunch and my sandwich was waiting for me on the table. Mother hollered from somewhere in the house and told me to go ahead and eat. A few minutes later, she called for me to bring some old towels to the bathroom. She peeked through the door and instructed me to finish eating and go back to school. Daddy was coming home to take her to the hospital, where several hours later my baby brother was born. I will never forget the image of her going out to the car holding a towel behind her. I didn’t know much about birthing babies at that point, but catching it with a towel seemed a little strange to me. I later learned her water had broken, hence the towel wrap.

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