I remember a lot of things about elementary school that no longer exist: the lunchtime handball games, the mini-chairs and mini-desks and spending the entire day in one classroom. What I miss most of all, however, are those brown paper bag lunches that seem to be discarded the first day students set foot on a high school campus.
Now, students choose other nourishment than what those brown paper bag lunches provided. Some students go off campus, many eat at the school cafeteria, others frequent the Taco Truck and a few don’t eat at all.
I lost my precious paper bag lunch so quickly I never even noticed how much I missed it. The stack of brown bags was relegated to the same cobweb-filled corner of my closet as the Jelly shoes I (and all girls) used to wear.
Lunch in the era of brown bag lunches was so much more interactive.
Little first graders anxiously anticipated the notes their mothers left them, while sixth graders threw them away in embarrassment, only to rifle through the trash later to read the precious words. Kids actively bartered goodies: one bag of Gushers for two Fruit Roll-Ups; a cup of cinnamon apple sauce for a package of Doritos.
In high school, people scarf down food before jetting off to club meetings, leaving little time to maintain friendships. The only time interaction is required now occurs when an overactive eater is learning how helpful the Heimlich can be.
For many kids, the paper bag lunch bred responsibility and independence. We learned to get up early when we had to pack our own lunches so we wouldn’t be late to school. We learned that not packing any lunch at all left a painful feeling of emptiness in our stomachs which was really a metaphor for life that encouraged us to follow our passions. Now, I just spend my parents’ money on food; there is no longer a feeling of accomplishment in lunch.
The brown paper bag lunch is an unappreciated treasure. For me, it is a symbol of what I have lost in my race for the finish line and attempts to conform. Even if it has no symbolic meaning for anyone else, it is still a pastime that deserves another chance.
To everyone who has forgotten the beauty and simplicity of a bag lunch, I implore you to remember why we brought them to school for eight years of our lives.
Instead of asking your parents for money or allotting part of your earnings to eat out, reach for the nearest piece of fruit, place it in a brown bag and relive the blissful days of elementary school and the brown bag lunch.