What's good for me ... isn't always good for you. Would you not agree? I remember having to eat every last crumb on my luncheon tray in first grade. We all attended St. Peter's Catholic Parochial School, on Staten Island, NY. It was the last time we all would be in the same school, at the same time. During first grade my Father would pack us the same lunch every day. He would make us each a sandwich using Velveeta cheese slices on white bread with Miracle Whip spread on them. He wrapped them in Cut-Rite waxed paper and put them into individual light brown lunch bags. We would buy two-cent cartons of milk. (1 cup portions.) Each day, it would be the same lunch. Mostly we were so hungry we were glad for them. Then we would go outside and play in the courtyard.
One day, we were told by Mother Superior that all students would be provided free hot lunches. Wow! I love food and now I was going to have school lunch cuisine. I couldn't wait. For the most part the lunches were quite delicious (what does a six year old know?), and there was a silence comprised of mutual chewing and appreciative stomachs. Those were much simpler times and kids knew how to appreciate perks.
I remember the days when we were served Knockwurst and Sauerkraut. Thinking back on it, it might have been hot dogs, but I am not certain. Now, while the meat was a welcome source of protein there was something difficult about the taste of sauerkraut. It just didn't taste right. My little face would screw up into a wince, my eyes would close and my tongue wanted to spit out the offending vegetable. It sure didn't look like any vegetable I had ever seen before! It was pale, almost translucent and much too tart for my sensitive palate.
Somehow I managed to finish this unpleasant dish and before I knew it I was playing outside, buying a five-cent Necco candy roll from the candy-stand. A few of us would divide up and trade the colors, just as Mary, my next eldest sister taught me to do. The other first graders thought the idea was a big kid thing to do and readily adopted my bargaining tool. We played hop scotch, jump rope, jacks, rode on the see-saw and got pushed by some of the bigger kids, on the steel swing sets. These swings were extremely tall and the heavy chains insured us they were safely attached to the seats. We liked to swing and the gleeful laughter and squeals rose into the midday air. Recess was always a grand time, and this was the main place we learned to socialize.
I was a polite and well-behaved child, sometimes a little reticent, until I felt completely comfortable that I was conducting myself with good deportment. That I was the youngest of the four ******* children was well known, as my elder siblings would keep an eye on me, and sometimes make the rounds to say hello to me and my new found friends. I felt safe and I was happy. I excelled in school and spent many hours applying myself and sneaking looks out the windows. On nice days they would be open to allow fresh saltwater breezes to float through the classroom. I could see the panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline and my very favorite work of art, The Statue of Liberty. I still feel she belongs to me, just as I feel the Moon (especially when it is gigantic and golden and full), belongs to me. I would love to move back there to Staten Island and have a house high up on the top of the hill, overlooking the bay and NYC.
One day I was surprised to see a hard boiled egg on my lunch plate. I had only ever eaten fried or scrambled eggs at home and I didn't know what to do with this oval shaped cold egg. The egg had been peeled and while I was intrigued by the springy feel of this food I found it curiously unappealing. I always sniff first and eat with my eyes, long before I ever pick up my eating utensil. I just rolled it round and round my plate. I ate everything but the egg and got up to go to recess, when much to my chagrin, one of the Sisters who taught fifth grade asked me where I was going. I said outside to play. She told me I needed to sit back down and to eat the egg. It was a free lunch and it was a sin to waste food.
I heaved a tremendous sigh and fought back tears of resentment. I never had to eat anything I didn't want before. Even when we went on vacation and I ordered (I always ended up doing this, so my Father told me), the most expensive meal on the menu, I ate what I wanted and the rest of the family ate whatever I couldn't finish. Now Sister wanted me to do something against my will. I was just a little kid and she had authority over me. My parents had told me to do as I was told. Okay, I took a bite and wanted to spit it out. I chewed and chewed and the more I chewed the bigger it got! Tears at my captive position fell down my cheeks. Sister walked round and round the tables. The other children could be heard playing. I longed to be outside with them.
As Sister was at the end of the room I made a decision. I took the egg and slipped it into the front of the bib of my snow suit pants. I wiped my mouth and wished I still had some milk left, with which to rinse my mouth. The egg tasted unpleasant and it had coated my baby teeth with its creamy yolk. I stood up and was reaching for my coat when Sister loomed over me. Instead of cowering away, which is what I wanted to do, because I was guilty of concealing the hard boiled egg sin, I acted innocent in preparing for my recess journey. Instead, Sister gently took me by the shoulders and sat me back down.
I sat on the egg! Right in my snow suit pants! Sister told me "You may go now." I gingerly made my way outside to stand in the corner. Hot tears of shame rolled down my face as I tried to shake the offensive food down the pants leg. I learned a good lesson that day. If you don't want to waste food, ask someone if they like what you’re serving ahead of time. I knew I had not behaved accordingly but when my sister asked me why I was crying I admitted I had had to eat a hard boiled egg and that I hadn't wanted to. The fact I only ate one bite didn't enter into the telling about my unhappy free school lunch. I will say though, that the next time this item was on the menu, my plate was never used to taunt me. Sister taught me a lesson in honesty but she also decided I needn't be placed in an uncomfortable position again.
What's good for me ... might not be good for you. "The realization is that we all have our points of views, and while they might not reflect a camaraderie, there is the possibility of a harmonious balance."
At Easter when it was time to make colored eggs, I gave all my eggs to my Mother because I wanted her to have more. She loved them, too. As it turned out we were all happy with this arrangement. Did you know? I didn't eat a hard boiled egg until I was in my twenties and even then they had been turned into deviled eggs. Touché!