When I was growing up, I never ate lunch in the school cafeteria. The first time I did eat in a school cafeteria was on my first day of college. It was pretty awful, and I had an even greater appreciation for the brown bag lunches that my Mom packed for me and my sisters every single morning.
In elementary school we walked home for lunch every day. But once we entered junior high, my sisters and I brought our lunch from home. Our mother would pack a sandwich, piece of fruit and a cookie and put them in the classic brown bag. Sometimes she would put a hard-boiled egg, left-over chicken, or anything else that was handy. Lunch was always predictable and reliable.
However, one day each year, our mother took a few liberties with our lunches. She had a great sense of humor, and loved a good joke. Every April Fool’s Day, the joke was on us. And in our lunch bags. Peanut butter sandwiches were laced with rubber bands. Two pieces of bread would hold a hand written note that said “April Fool’s!” On one occasion the note read, “This is not a piece of jumbo.” (Western Pennsylvania slang for bologna). One time the sandwich was a picture of a slice of jumbo. If there was an egg, we weren’t sure if it was hard-boiled or raw, until we cracked the shell.
She did it every year. We knew it was coming, although a few times we did forget about her favorite holiday. At least, until we opened our lunch bags. Oh, yes, it’s April Fool’s Day. I can imagine her at home, watching the clock so she knew which child was in lunch period, opening her special brown bag. As much as she loved her little joke, she would never let us go hungry. She always had an extra lunch for us sent with one of our friends. So, by the time we were in high school, our friends knew about Mom’s joke, and eagerly anticipated April Fool’s Day to see what she came up with this time.
So, on this April Fool’s Day, I celebrate my mother and her sense of humor. I raise a slice of bread slathered with peanut butter and laced with rubber bands to my mother’s memory. And to further honor her, I share with you the lessons I learned from her and those lunches. First of all, it’s important to have a sense of humor. It’s good for your health. It’s important to laugh often, and laugh hard. A good belly laugh is good for your spirit and has the added benefit of working your abs without doing crunches. It’s important to go along with a joke, even if you already know it’s coming, and you are on the receiving end. It’s even better to share the joke with friends. It teaches you not to take yourself too seriously.
One last thing…always have a back up plan, just in case your brown bag is full of rubber bands, raw eggs and April Fool’s. It’s good to be prepared for the unexpected.