Breakfast this morning brought back some memories.
Today's my day off. Because my wife had to go to work earlier, I offered to take one of the kids to their school so she could drop off the other. She thought that sounded fair (Getting in is a pain, but it's the getting OUT that's really hard.). I asked my elder daughter (just now nine years old) if she wanted to have breakfast with me. She said "Yeah!" My five year-old began crying that Daddy wasn't coming to have breakfast with her. I wasn't dumb enough to make any promises, but I figure that I'll probably do that tomorrow.
Because of our schedules, we've taken to buying breakfasts for our kiddos at the school cafeteria, about 3/4 of the time. I don't even think my school offered breakfast. Knock it if you want, the first day I took my kids to this school, I saw eggs and biscuits and sausage and toast and fresh fruit.
So I parked at the school and walked my nine year-old daughter into school. She wanted to go straight into the cafeteria, but I pointed out that I'm supposed to check in at the office. The cop in me likes this, and the parent in me isn't too annoyed with it, either. The cynic in me suspects that I probably could have walked all around in the school without a "Visitor" sticker, and I never would have been challenged. But most of the staff there wears some kind of ID badge around their neck, so.... maybe it would rouse someone to call the PD if they saw a huge stranger wandering around in there. The stickers are printed up quick from a roll of stickers in a special printer next to a laptop at the office desk. It's actually pretty simple to get one with my name, purpose, and check-in time. In turn, the lady at the office can track visitors. Not bad. I was out of the office in less than thirty seconds.
My kid put up her backpack in a waiting area, and we went into the cafeteria, and started through the line. I knew I'd better watch her when she reached for milk. Yep, she went for the chocolate milk. "Nope," I said.
She looked at me blankly. "But Daddy, I really don't like that strawberry milk very much."
Times have changed. Back when I was in elementary school, there was a big bin of regular milk, an equal bin of chocolate milk, and a little bin of skim milk. Now it's a HUGE bin of chocolate milk, a large bin of strawberry milk, and a little bitty bin of 2% white milk. Nothing else.
"You're drinking white milk, and you'll like it, kid," I answered.
Into the lunch line. Oven toast made from sesame hoagie buns with grape jelly, or bowls of sugared cold cereals was all they had. Hmph. I been bamboozled! Where were the biscuits and gravy? The sausage or bacon? The eggs?
"We're serving biscuits and gravy tomorrow; you just picked the wrong day," said the lunch lady. Hmmph! I'm sure.
And no coffee! What the hell?!? Look-- I'm 6'5", my wife's 5'8", and my daughters are well into the 90th percentile for height. How am I supposed to stunt their growth? ( [sigh] I'm going to have to start buing them cigarettes.) We each chose a juice (orange or grape, 100%, I was gratified to see).
I paid for me, while my daughter just expertly ten-keyed her school ID number into the register. (I pay for her by the month.)
There were lots of kids gathered at the long rows of tables, but my daughter chose seats for us far in a corner. Fine by me-- those other kids were loud. We sat on little short stools that were built into the tables. Thank Gawd there was a steel support leg under each stool seat!
And we ate. Daddy and daughter, chatting. I talked her into finishing her milk, and she joked about my needing to eat less.
We finished and threw away our Styrofoam plates. (No more trays to wash, apparently.) My daughter showed me how they shake out their milk and juice containers into a large bucket that contained a disgusting mix of stuff. That was when it really hit me-- that slight disgust in a large room with painted cinderblock walls and waxed tile floors, where kids eat every day. I remembered, and the nostalgia hit me like a brick.
I dropped my daughter off at the waiting area where the kids line up by classes to be led to their classrooms. At the door, I asked for a hug with a piece of ice stuck in my heart. What if this was the time that she refused to hug me at the school? She's already refused to hold my hand as we walk to school. That ice melted immediately as she smiled and gave me a neck-breaking hug.
I checked out and went home. I didn't even mind the school drop-off traffic that made a 1-mile car trip take 10 minutes.