Childhood memories: Every child has a story to tell

I think it was fifth grade. I visited a friend’s house and she had a button-maker. We spent an afternoon coloring and drawing on construction paper to create a couple buttons a piece. I had never encountered a button-making machine before and I vowed to put this spectacular device on my Christmas list (never got it).

I wanted to put a motto on one of the buttons and carefully selected blue construction paper and some special stickers (I think one was a little horse and lots of flowers). Other kids may have put the name of their favorite boy band, but I wrote in my best cursive, “I Love Life,” with artful flourishes on the two “L” letters.

That blue button was a treasure. I don’t remember wearing it on my shirt, but I think I may have put it on my pink corduroy OshKosh B’Gosh hat. I moved four times before eighth grade, living in five cities across three states. All were bipolar, cross-country moves in my parents’ fruitless search for a place they could agree on. Although I had lived in that little town with my button-making friend for maybe a year, I had made a close group of friends. My family even owned our first house, a “fixer-upper.” My mom openly regrets, “I should have never moved you guys from that place. You were secure.” I tell her, “Don’t beat yourself up about it. Forget it, Mom. I have.”

I keep a few small boxes of childhood mementos squirreled away in a faraway house that basically no one lives in anymore. A few years ago at the request of my mother I went through one box. That’s when I discovered a medium-sized blue button on the bottom. Holding “I Love Life” in my hand was bittersweet: I was a happy and innocent child who was about to be swallowed up by puberty. But for two short years, I must have had a wonderful time. In life things can be good, but I have learned that at any time things can sour. A year later smack dab in middle school we moved across country to another school where I made exactly one friend.

Schools out west were strange, foreign places for me. Instead of stately self-contained school buildings, there were no hallways. Classroom doors opened up to the breezes of cold or warm weather. It astonished me that these “schools” qualified for the label: it was more an open air educational mall in cinder block. Bright sun or stiff wind accosted you when you left your classroom door. It wasn’t normal; it was offensive.

And it was cold. Whenever I go to supposed “warm winter” places, I forget that their winters feel colder to me. No one dresses appropriately, houses don’t have proper insulation, and as a result fifty or sixty degrees at night feels chillier than it does in the Midwest. I mean sixty degrees is borderline shorts weather where I live now, whereas out west I would need long pajamas! That’s one reason I love the Midwest: I’m always toasty warm in my own home no matter what is happening outside.

The teacher I had out there was a pretty, petite woman with jet black hair. It was seventh grade and Ms. Peterson was a screamer. Because of that she will forever be ugly in my mind. She never yelled at me or even really talked to me as I wasn’t a memorable student. I did my homework, got great grades, and wasn’t a behavior issue. But I don’t respond to yelling well and as an educator myself it’s a technique I have rarely employed. It strips dignity from small people and, therefore, doesn’t work.

People ask me, “do you remember school lunches you ate?” Not really. But I do remember eating lunch with my one friend. I think we were seated at picnic tables in a large room that was open to the outdoors on all sides. I was so grateful that she was eating with me. It didn’t matter what it was that we ate, it was nice to chat with someone friendly and to be away from my angry little teacher.

I didn’t clean out that box of memories. I couldn’t part with very much. The “I Love Life” button went back amongst everything and I shuffled the box’s contents. “Here’s the box back, Mom. I don’t want to go through any more boxes.”


I know this is off-topic, but I was thinking about my childhood yesterday, I wanted to write a little something and then decided to share what I wrote with you. Just so you know, few coworkers know anything about my life as a child so this really doesn’t give away much. If you want, I can write more or if this is TMI, this is it. Please forgive my grammar and especially my punctuation.

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33 thoughts on “Childhood memories: Every child has a story to tell

  1. I think this is very much ON topic as your blog deals with the well-being of kids. So much going on in their lives that teachers aren't privy to that it is good to remember that. As for what we ate for school lunch as students, I mostly remember what I carried it in LOL. Earliest memories are of my mom wrapping up my lunch in newspaper and tying it with string (seriously!). Was a happy day when I got a blue metal (very plain) lunch box. No thermos–we just bought a bottle of milk for 2 or 3 cents!!! (Really dating myself there!)

  2. Lunch matters, not just for the food but also for the socialization. I have horrible school lunch memories. My family was in turmoil when I was in middle school (older brother in jail, older sister got pregnant and had an abortion, and my parents were overwhelmed and mostly dealt with issues by yelling). I was a straight A student and a shy sensitive kid and I didn't have any adults that I trusted to talk to- so I leaned too hard on my one good friend. That friend stopped hanging out with me, and suddenly I had no one to sit with at lunch. All lunch tables were limited to 4 students- and I still had some other friends but I wasn't among anyone's top 3 friends- so I sat alone for an entire year before I went off to high school. Sitting alone at lunch was horrible. I wish that our lunch room staff had been less worried about enforcing rules like 4 kids to a table and more concerned about our mental health and not making anyone into a pariah.

  3. I agree, that this is very much on topic. Childhood memories often revolve around food, not necessarily what we ate, but the people at the table with us. I remember meals around the table with my mom and sister, not the food on my plate.

    I remember the family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and of course some of the foods as we only had them at those times. My favorite memories revolve around summer time gatherings of family on Memorial Day, the 4th of July and usually once in August, just because, where my uncles and Pop Pop were huddled around the grill burning hot dogs and burgers while my sister, our friends and I splashed and played in the pool and my mom, grandma and aunts made wonderful things like potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans, and wilted salad.

    The table, whether lunch or dinner, is an integral part of our lives and memories surrounding it and the people there with us are important to share.

  4. on-topic without a doubt. this project isn't just about school lunches. it's about your experience with school lunches, with school, and with life.

    in elementary and middle school, school lunch was a horror. i was always the odd kid out (in classes of a dozen or less, same kids for years), so it was always a chance to be mocked and ridiculed without the class disruption that brought supervision. in the public high school, i ate lunch in the cafeteria exactly once in my freshman year, and felt so bewildered by the noise and awful, tasteless food that i literally never did it again. in my sophomore year i started eating lunch with the math club in the teacher's room, and that was somewhat more pleasant, but i always still felt out of place. i ate candy bars washed down with a coke.

  5. I don't remember too much about what I ate for lunch either. though I know it was cold lunch brought from home because the hot lunch in the cafeteria was disgusting. I too remember more about the lunch room experience. I attended 2 different schools K-8 (Catholic, but not sure if it matters at all to this topic), and at each school the rule was you say with your class at lunch. Until 4th grade (when I switched) you sat at your table in whatever seat you chose. There were only 7 kids in my class, and I don't think anyone was too picky about who did or didn't sit next to them. The most memorable part of that experience was that the lunch ladies FORCED you to eat ALL of your lunch (including milk) or else you had to sit inside through recess. I hated milk, so I sat inside quite a bit. I mostly drank water.

    From 4th grade on, we sat with our class, but in the order you lined up – so you didn't pick seats. I remember this being bittersweet. The first couple of years I went there, I only had 2 friends (twins) and they were both a year older. This meant that they couldn't sit with me. However, because you couldn't choose where you sat, I was never osteracized (or made a pariah as one commenter described it); I just didn't talk much until recess when I could play with my 2 older friends! I feel like this was a suitable arrangement that kept me from feeling bad about myself.

  6. It seems that many of your readers are educators and parents, so I think this is very relevant. It could be an awesome series if you welcomed guest bloggers to share experiences from childhood. Every adult needs to be reminded of what it was like once upon a childhood.

  7. Mrs. Q,

    I suppose the lunchroom staff or teachers feel assigned seating increases opportunities for socialization and eliminates the possibility of some students being left out. In my case, however, it had the opposite effect.

    I went to a fairly small private school (about 70 or so kids in our class) and for the one year, in fifth grade, we were assigned lunch tables. We were told that under no circumstances were we allowed to sit anywhere else besides our assigned tables. I don't know whose "brilliant" idea this was, but it was a disaster. Unfortunately for me, I was assigned to a table with classmates who were really unpleasant — one girl in particular took great pleasure in bullying and being as ugly as possible to me on a daily basis.

    I suffered through lunch for some time and one day I came close to being in tears. I drew in a very deep breath, determined not to cry because 5th graders just don't do that, and the mean girl promptly imitated me breathing in deeply. Then she began her verbal assault. I had had it at that point. I told my mom after school that day and she immediately called my teacher and complained. I was allowed to choose another table and after that year, they went back to the old system of letting everyone choose their tables.

  8. Thanks for your comments. Childhood is a wonderful time, but it's easy to forget that children have lives that may be anything but easy. For many it was a painful time when adults made all the decisions for better or worse.

  9. I was fortunate to grow up in a stable home environment . . . no moving around, plenty of memories–the good far outweighing the bad. I have a junior high (middle school) memory that does revolve around the cafeteria and is not the most pleasant memory. The cafeteria staff had decided to implement a rule that (1) you were assigned to a specific table for lunch–no ifs ands or buts about it; and (2) each day one person at the lunch table was responsible for cleaning up around the table . . . anything that happened to fall to the floor or get dropped . . . Unfortunately, I didn't really know any of the girls that I was seated with (I was the outcast) and none of my elementary school friends had the same lunch period as I. Without fail, every time it was my day to do the clean-up, the other girls (who all knew one another from elementary school and were great friends) would throw food, napkins, papers, and wrappers all over the floor. Typical childish, bullying behavior at that age, I suppose, but still very mean-spirited. I tried–without success–to get my seat assignment changed, and eventually talked with the cafeteria monitor about the problem. She did see what was happening and eventually I was excused from clean-up detail . . . and amazingly, the floor stayed clean!

  10. Kids can be so cruel.
    I remember a new school for 5th grade. Round lunch tables that sat 6 – 8 kids each. Most of the kids at my table brought their lunch, I know I did. One girl at my table was Jewish. It was my first experience with ethnic foods and food rules for religious reasons. I learned a lot that year without even realizing what I was learning. (I had never seen a hard boiled egg sandwich before either, my mom never even made egg salad because dad didn't like it.) Wish I could go back in time and talk more with Heidi now.
    Jr. high was in the high school back then. Lunch was LOUD and crowded and I usually took my lunch. I was quiet and shy and had a hard time making friends. By high school a small group of us started eating lunch in one of the biology labs to get away from the noise. I would eat my processed turkey sandwich and then do homework or read.
    Looking back, School lunchrooms evoke smells for me. Grade school: yeast rolls. High School: milk, kinda sour.

  11. I think it's very relevant. School lunches aren't just about food, and childhood is hugely influenced by the social hierarchy at work in the lunchroom, as well as the classroom and beyond. I would very much like to read more.

    I remember "breaking up" with my best friend in middle school, who had been my best friend since first grade, over lunchroom politics. She was invited to go and sit at the table of popular girls. There were 12 seats to a table, and definitely no room for me. She chose to go and sit with them instead of with me and our group of friends two tables away. All through 7th and 8th grade. I don't think things were ever the same after that–we were still friends, but I'm not sure we ever ate lunch together again.

  12. Very nice post. I moved around a lot as a kid as well, so I can relate. For the first 14 years of my life, the moves were all within California, so I know the style of school you're talking about. I remember a few things from my lunches:
    in one of the elementary schools I attended, we had to file into the long cafeteria tables in a line, and we'd count off how many people were in front of us and rearrange so you wouldn't get cut off from your friends. But it hardly mattered because we weren't allowed to talk at all while eating. Awful. In junior high I ate Domino's pizza, crinkle cut french fries and chocolate milk every day. There were never enough tables, and most were outside, so in the rain, you were kind of screwed unless you could find a hallway to duck into and eat on the floor. Also awful. We moved to the midwest when I was a freshman in high school, and while the food was nothing to write home about (pretty sure I packed my lunch every day), the school was just so much nicer and actually had enough space for everyone. And the teachers (for the most part) seemed to care more about the kids. Going to school in California was a pretty miserable experience.

  13. I will never forget my first day as a new student in 3rd grade. It was lunch time and I didn't know anybody. One girl sat by me right away, after lunch I heard her telling another boy in our class "Well, I only sat by her because she's the new girl. I was supposed to". Ugh, that kind of set the tone for the 3 years I spent at the school, a perpetual outsider, just included because it was the thing to do. Luckily, things at the next school were much better. If there's anything that whole experience of changing schools taught me its "nothing lasts forever". Cliched but true.

  14. Part 1 of 2

    When I was a kid, I was fascinated by any type of sewing or needlework and my mom used to give me the straight pins that came in the clothes we got back from the dry cleaners. Those pins were my treasures and I kept them in a little matchbox my dad gave me.

    My grandmother used to take me to the dime store (now I'm REALLY dating myself) where she would buy me sewing and craft supplies. Shortly after my dad gave me the matchbox, my grandmother and I bought felt squares in a bunch of colors at the dime store. I covered the matchbox with yellow felt and cut the letters in the word "pins" out of the other colors. I glued the cutouts onto the matchbox.

    I used those pins for many years but eventually had to throw them out because they rusted and discolored so badly. I still have that pin box, however. It's the only thing I've carried with me from my childhood. I was always afraid of losing it so a few years ago, I made a little cloth doll to hold it for me. The pin box is securely velcroed to her hands and she's a permanent fixture on the bookcase in my living room. I have to smile whenever I see the pin box. It reminds me of some happy times and that there's more to life than all the grown-up stuff I get wrapped up in.

  15. Part 2 of 2

    My family moved every couple of years when I was in elementary school but fortunately, it was always within the same school district and always during summer so whenever I started in a new school, I wasn't the only new kid. I think that made it easier for me. The summer before 7th grade, we moved back to the neighborhood we lived in when I was in K thru 2nd grade. I renewed a bunch of friendships and began several new ones. All seemed well.

    English was the subject that was scheduled for 7th graders at lunch time. I was placed in the accelerated English class which had lunch after class. All of my friends were in the regular English class which had lunch before class. So, none of my friends had lunch at the same time I had it.

    The first week of school, I began sitting in the cafeteria with a group of girls that sat near me in English class. They were fun and I thought I was in for sure. One of the girls, however, started throwing profanities my way and making fun of me. She was the only one who ever treated me badly but she seemed to be something of a leader in the group so the other girls never said a word when she bullied me.

    I started sitting with other kids but she would always sit next to me even if it meant she had to get up and move to do it. I was so embarrassed. I tried to get my English teacher to move me to the other class and told her why I wanted to move but she wouldn't do it. She just told me to put up with it. I also went to my guidance counselor for help but she gave me the same response as my teacher. There was a lot of verbal abuse in my home when I was growing up and I was determined not to go thru that at school, too. I learned to sit at a table with a teacher or principal although that wasn't a common occurrence because they usually ate in the teachers' lounge. I also discovered that I could slip outside and eat my lunch in peace. There was usually someone else to sit with out there, mostly boys which was fine with me!

    On the days that I managed to give the bully the slip at lunch, she would usually sucker punch me either in the hallway between classes or in the girls' locker room while we were changing clothes for phys. ed. She eventually was suspended a couple of times for smoking on school grounds. In the end, she was expelled and we didn't see her again until 10th grade. She never bullied me in high school, though. No one would hang out with her at that point, either. She was considered a "burn-out" and most kids kept away from her.

    I've often wondered if things would have turned out different for that girl if my English teacher or guidance counselor had gotten involved in the bullying issue. God knows what that kid was going thru at home. To make matters worse, she may well have passed on the same abuse she suffered to her own kids.

    I wholeheartedly agree with those who have expressed the opinion on this blog that schools need to teach the whole kid, not just the parts of their brains used for academic subjects like math, reading, and science. Bullying is yet another example of a common childhood issue that's often ignored or inadequately addressed by many of our schools.

  16. Thank you to everyone who is commenting about their experiences at lunch. I think lunch needs to be a respite for kids from academics, but too often it is the land of the bullies. That's a facet of lunch that is overlooked.

  17. Mrs. Q, your story about the button is very evocative. It would make a nice kids book. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Wow, I just read all the comments. I think you have struck something real, Mrs. Q. School lunch can be made better for students in so many ways beyond the food. I'm so sorry for all the bad, bullying lunch memories shared here.

  19. That was very poignant, and I enjoyed reading it.

    I can remember as a child that people would say to me, "This is the best time of your life. Enjoy it." I remember thinking, "You mean it gets WORSE??" As an adult (and a very happy one), I try hard to encourage kids that there will be great times ahead, and sometimes adults get a bit forgetful about how hard it can be to be a kid. Especially an overweight child.

  20. I enjoyed elementary school, but after that it just got bad –bullying, and I never really fit in. I had a few friends in middle school, and a different few in high school, but in general it's not a part of life I look back on fondly. I find it interesting to read the comments on your blog because so many other people were apparently also suffering through school –wish we'd all known each other, maybe we would have had a better time.

    I went home for lunch in elementary school (we must've had a long lunch period, huh?) but in middle and high school we were allowed to eat sitting in the hall next to our lockers, and that's what I always did. I never once ate in a cafeteria –we were a really large school, so maybe there just wasn't room for all of us in the cafeteria. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed eating by my locker, with my few friends 🙂

  21. Just lost a long post due to browser problems, so I'll sum up.

    My first elementary school lunches were ok but not great, as I had very few friends at that school. Third grade was the worst at that school – I had no friends in my own class, so I sat with another class, but their teacher took them outside to picnic every Friday. Unless it rained, I ate alone on Fridays (or I'd sometimes go sit with my class, but they made fun of me when I did.)

    My second elementary school was the best of my schools. The cafe had board games we could sign out to play when we'd finished eating, and the assistant principal would set up appointments for kids to play chess or checkers against him. The downside was that I did sometimes get bullied there – there was this one girl who basically made it her mission in life to make me miserable from 4th-12th grade, and she got started by excluding me from games or getting other friends of hers to join our table at the start of lunch so the table would be full when I got there.

    In middle school, it was a mixed bag – I always got to sit with friends, and wasn't usually the sole target of bullying, but we were bullied. It was mainly by the boys then (the girl from before was still a problem, just not mainly at lunch) – they would push their chairs to block the aisles or squeeze us against the table, and throw food at us, aiming to get it down our shirts. The only time the staff did anything about this was if the principal was around.

    In high school, lunch shifts were determined by your 5th period class. My freshman year I ate with my twin and a boy we'd been in class with since 4th grade – initially he was just someone we actually knew, but I ended up becoming good friends with him by the end of the year. Unfortunately, joining his table meant putting up with the other boy there. That kid was not a good lunch companion – he enjoyed making concoctions out of his hot lunch far more than eating it. Sophomore & junior year I didn't have any good friends in my shift – sophomore year I floated between tables of acquaintances, sometimes showing up to find that the last seat had been taken by one of their new friends. Junior year was pure misery. I sat at the table that had free space: 2 girls I didn't know but actively disliked by the end of the year (both were often in trouble), and one other girl. The third girl was in my year and was extremely shy, to the point that she almost never talked. She was actually at my lunch table every year but sophomore year (and she sat with all my friends in another shift then), but I never managed to get a conversation going – I was too shy myself to try very hard. Senior year I finally had my friends in my lunch shift – it was really the only year that I actively looked forward to lunch.

    I ate mostly the same food all throughout school; the differences in my social experiences at lunch were much more pronounced. You said in your last comment that "lunch needs to be a respite for kids" – I agree, but for me, it often happened that I dreaded lunch and looked forward to returning to the classroom. Bullies, and worse, isolation, can make even a delicious lunch miserable.

  22. I always adored the teachers who left their rooms open during lunch. I wish more teachers understood the safe haven their rooms can create for students having a particularly bad day. Just as teachers need that break period to get away from the chaos and noise, so too do a lot of students. In high school, one or two friends and I had lunch with a few teachers a couple of times each week, and they were always particularly enjoyable lunches because it was nice to just sit and have real, adult conversations with normal people once in a while. Haha.

    Remember that, teachers! Open your doors during lunch once in a while and see if anyone shows up. It's usually the good kids who pop in to say hi. 😀

  23. In Singapore, the school canteen has several stores that sell a variety of food – drinks, halal food, noodles, rice, snacks etc. Students can purchase from any store they wish.

    The prices are low and affordable for most students. Students are allowed to bring their own food but not many do that because the canteen food is so affordable. There are also regulations in place to ensure that the canteen operators provide a healthful food.

    In some schools, students on subsidy get coupons to purchase their food, or to offset a portion of the cost.

    There is no distinction between food and play time. Students get about 40 minutes and can do whatever they wish during that time. Most students would gobble up their food then head for the basketball court. Some students would play first, then eat, so that they don't have to wait in line.

    There are no fixed seating arrangements. Long tables and benches mean that students can choose to squeeze in and make space for friends who come along later.

    I remember recess time as a time when you can be yourself. The relatively loose structure meant that one can be as alone as one wishes (sit along the corridor and read a book). Or sit with friends from other classes, or sit with friends from after class activities, chat, play a game, run around or catch some bugs (I once caught a huge grasshopper!).

  24. I really enjoyed this post and reading all the experiences in the comments! I always love hearing about school memories like this, so here's my own.

    Elementary school wasn't particularly memorable for me, but junior high was terrible. I was "the quiet loner" and only got along with one other girl I had known since elementary school who wasn't in any of my classes – and one day she decided to stop talking to me, so I always dreaded lunch. I started to spend every lunch in the library doing my homework.

    Actually, I almost never ate at school at all. Whether I was hungry or I wasn't, I would always wait until I got home to eat. Some people might think this is unhealthy, but I'm pretty adaptable and it never bothered me. Looking back now, I think it was because I always had a sense of discomfort at school, and I was never in the mood to eat while I was in an environment I disliked.

    One day a girl in a few of my classes who felt sorry for me for being alone (although I truthfully didn't mind it at all) invited me to sit with her group, the "preps" whom I never particularly liked. I didn't want to sit with them, but agreed just to be polite. This ended up making me miserable for the rest of junior high. I went from being "invisible" to being targeted by bullies and rumors spread by people I didn't even know. The girl who had tried to be my "friend", despite still believing she was, told everyone else (behind my back) that I was anorexic because I never ate at school.

    Many people may not realize it, but school-age girls can be so cruel, and in many cases the counselors don't help at all. (The number one advice, without fail? "Ignore them!" That certainly didn't help me.) To the commenter who had teachers who left their doors open at lunch, I would have loved that! I wish more schools would do this.

  25. I have to share a "lunch" memory from my mother (she's now 76). She grew up on a small farm in central Illinois and they raised cattle which of course ended up on their plates. For lunch she would take steak sandwiches to school, but all of her friends from "town" had bologna. So…even 70 years ago kids would trade lunches! She would trade her steak sandwich for bologna. We talked about this just last week so I thought it would be fun to share!

  26. Your story is not TMI, Mrs. Q. It's a wonderful little capsule from your childhood. These school and life experiences help shape us into who we are as adults; from reading this story and the rest of your blog, you strike me as a brave, thoughtful, and resilient woman. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  27. I know this is a little off topic and I haven't gotten a chance to read through all of your blog yet, but I wanted to give this to you:

    The first link is to the "lunch menus/food services" page at my old school district

    And this second link is to a sample lunch menu pulled from April from one of the elementary schools. (You can find it on the page from the link above but a direct link is a little faster/easier)

    I graduated in 2006 and that year (and a little bit the year before) they started making a LOT of changes to the food at our school. We had two lines but the divided one of the lines (it went around a corner, they made it go straight) to make a third line where they offered strictly salads and wraps. They changed the selections to healthier ones, got rid of some of the sweets and moved the ones they kept to a seperate spot in the lunch room. They also added an all water vending machine and all milk (Nestle) vending machine. And the soda vending machines would only work before school and after lunch. In between there was a type of lock on it, not a physical one, it just wouldn't take your money and would say that you couldn't buy anything until XXX time.

    Maybe there is some way to speak to someone from the school district ( about how they got things going there and how your school district can get it. Honestly, I was never a big fan of having to buy school lunch (though I loved it my senior year! I always used the salad/wrap line!) but even the Mexican pizza from before the school started going healthy (which was DISGUSTING looking) looked better than the stuff your school is feeding you and your students! Good luck!

  28. I remember vividly one time in high school, it was my senior year and the seniors were the only ones who could sit outside for lunch. I too was the "quiet loner" without many friends and there were many untrue and hurtful rumors spread about me (in a class of 64, rumors were rampant).

    The lunch tables only held 8 people so if it took me too long to get my food, or if my one or two "friends" weren't there or their tables were full I was forced to sit alone at an 8 person table. One day I was tired of eating lunch alone (as this was before it was acceptable to have cell phones at school, so there was no searching the internet or texting to keep me entertained) so I got up and sat next to my closest guy friend at his all male table. Without saying a word, he stood up and moved to another table along with all of his friends. To this day, I have never felt as completely hurt as I did at that moment.

    My lack of friendship in high school also caused me to develop an eating disorder, as I didn't want to be seen as the "loser" eating alone, so I quit eating all together.

    Today I'm a well adjusted person, certainly nowhere near starving (could probably stand cutting back on the ice cream), and that same guy who left me high and dry at the lunch table has been my significant other for the past 3 years. I asked him about that day once and he claims to have no memory of it. High school kids can be so cruel.

  29. I don't know if it's cause I'm from a younger generation (only 23 here!) but I was never bullied or felt alone at lunch time. In elementary school 3 and 4th graders all ate in the cafeteria and could chose where we sat and with whom. There was always plenty of space, so no one was ever left out. 5th graders got to eat outside and on rainy days eat in their classrooms and play board games inside (these were always my favorite days). Middle school, you could eat out or in, but in 8th grade I would hang out in the science lab where all my other geeky friends would hang out. High school was much the same as before. I didn't eat lunch but would just spend time with my friends in the chem lab or walking around campus. I have fond memories of lunch time during all my school years.

  30. More memories from Singapore…

    When I started in primary school (Grade 1 – 6) in the early 80s, there were no healthful regulations in place yet. Our canteen actually had a candy store! When the government "outlawed" candy stores in school, a stationery store took over. Needless to say, it was the store that had the least customers. I wonder which 10 year old would say, "Gee, I really need an eraser right now." However, it was convenient when one really really needed an eraser.

    Next to that store is a drinks store that sold coloured drinks made from syrup. Red is rose flavoured, orange is orange, white is barley, green is er… mystery fruit? A small glass costs 10 cents and a large glass costs 15 cents. We placed our money on the counter and took a glass, stood there and gulped our drink. We were not allowed to bring the glasses to our table. I guess the adults were afraid we might drop and break the glasses.

    The drinks lady had eagle eyes and would know if someone tried to take a drink without paying, even though there were a million kids hovering around waiting for glasses to be filled. There was no queue. It was a kind of organised chaos.

    The next store sells cakes, sandwiches, buns and… ice cream! However, buying ice cream is a great ordeal with many obstacles to overcome.

    No. 1 – The lady was a dragon! She was chronically cranky. I think she didn't like children.

    No. 2 – The ice cream box was inside the store. All other items are placed on the counter. But for ice cream, you have to enter the dragon's lair.

    No. 3 – Ice cream is costly. You have to have the money.

    No. 4 – The ice cream box does not have a glass top. The lady has to open it so you can see what's available.

    No. 5 – Tropical heat. The ice cream box loses its cool and the lady loses her's. You have to quickly decide which ice cream you want and find out if you have enough money for it.

    I reckon the lady would have more business if she was just a tad nicer. I guess that could be one way of making sure that students don't eat too much ice cream!

    But it's not all unhealthful food. The store that I patronised most often sells soup noodles. There's a variety of noodles – thick rice noodles, skinny rice vermicelli, yellow wheat noodles – topped with a fishball, slices of fish cake and some green vegetables. The ladies (a pair of sisters and their mother) ladled on hot clear broth just before serving. Yumm… the taste of childhood.

  31. I remember my fourth and fifth grade years more than the others. I was a "fluffy" kid. This one girl would tease me every day from the time I got to school to the time I went home. She spread rumors that I was a prostitute and paying people to be friends with me (odd combo since we were about ten at the time. I absolutely hated it and subsequently became very good at faking sick (I dreaded school so much the thought of it made me physically ill.)

    I became self conscious of eating in front of people and would often skip lunch and wait until I got home. It didn't help my weight issues. I ate more when I was home than I should have.

    The worst part was the seating arrangements. My earlier teachers (2nd and 3rd grade) had a neat way of assigning seats; they would pick a new line leader everyday. They would choose the person next in line and then the person they chose would pick. It worked out mostly. But later years I was made to sit in front of this girl or next to her almost every day, except when I brought lunch because if you brought your lunch you were automatically at the end of the line.

    Middle school and high school were much better considering this particular girl moved and went to a different school system.

    On the lunch note: My dad packed my lunch almost everyday during middle and high school. He made the best turkey sandwiches. I also ate lunch many days in my Latin class in high school. My teacher was wonderful. I skipped classes in her room throughout my senior year, and I still graduated with a 4.0. 🙂

  32. Thank goodness you have the compassion to teach. Life can be so hard for children. Teachers don't need to make it worse.


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