It all pretty much starts in kindergarten, when you go to the lunchroom with your class. I have vague recollections of taking a tray, getting chocolate milk and bread — most likely I am blocking out anything healthy that also might have been on the tray. But lunch time, back then, seemed more about hanging out with your friends than it did about eating. (Let’s be honest, for me, it was always about eating. Which could explain why I never had that many friends.) As you got older, you were part of different groups of friends, and most likely you always ate lunch with them. At that point, you probably no longer ate school lunch, you just brought something from home. I used to make myself lunch, not because my mother wouldn’t make it for me but because I could sneak a few more minutes of TV time (on the black and white TV in the kitchen) while I made it. Of course, I usually ended up eating half of my lunch while making it, but that is beside the point.
In high school you could eat lunch in the lunchroom or outside — we thought we were the coolest. Especially if you were a junior or a senior. Then you were allowed to go off campus altogether. Nothing tasted as sweet as Baskin Robbins ice cream from the Bergen Mall.
Then came college. In Stern College for Women and Others, the fine institution that I attended, we loved going to the cafeteria for lunch. We were a hearty bunch of women, and not only was the food good, but the staff who served the food was both funny and fun to be around. And it seemed that our caf cards never ran out of money. I’m not sure how that worked. You ate lunch with the people who were on the same class schedule as you were. Sometimes that was great and sometimes you just ended up eating alone and possibly getting work done. But it was still a very social aspect of your day.
And while we are on the subject of food in college — does anyone else remember the bagel dog? It was a hot dog inside a bagel that you could put in the microwave. It was both brilliant and delicious and I have not seen or eaten one since 1992. If anyone knows the fate of this fine food, please let me know! (Sorry, got a little off track there.)
But in all of these memories about meals of the past, of socializing with friends, of eating my friend Annie’s weird healthy snacks that her mother packed her, the subject of aging never came up. No one ever had to say no to a container of milk because it didn’t agree with their stomach. No one had to avoid potato chips because the sodium content was too high and they were worried about their blood pressure. No one had to take off the glasses they were wearing, put them on top of their heads, and then take another pair out of their knapsack so they could read the fiber content of the cereal they were eating. It was just like everything else when you were young — you just thought you would be young forever, and nothing would ever change. Not your friends, not the music you liked, not your eyesight, and certainly not your weight. Ahh, to be young and naive. Why don’t we appreciate that time in our lives? Why were we always looking at the clock, waiting for the bell to ring? Why doesn’t anyone warn us??
Every few weeks, I get together with a group of friends who I call the hockey moms. I think I have mentioned them before. We all met when our sons played hockey together in high school. We spent many a game together. We cried when we lost (kidding) and celebrated when we won (not kidding) and we all got to experience our sons’ championship season when they were seniors, and it was pretty amazing. When we meet for dinner we always have a lot of fun, and we act like teenagers. Teenagers who have to take their glasses off to read, who discuss their latest blood work, who empathize over situations with aging parents, who discuss the dreams they have for their children who don’t listen to them. You know. Teenage stuff. But even with all the stuff that makes us realize we are getting old, there is nothing like hanging out with your friends to make you feel young. And if the food is good, that is just a bonus.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is not going anywhere this summer. She is waiting for GD #1 to move in so she can take her on lots and lots of walks.