I Was The Little Girl With The Lunchbox

“Like everyone else I am what I am: an individual, unique and different, with a lineal history of ancestral promptings and urgings; a history of dreams, desires, and of special experiences, all of which I am the sum total.”

[ Charlie ChaplinMy Autobiographie ]

I haven’t talked a lot about my mother lately. In all honesty I have been to busy rejoicing in my new-found freedom.

Today I remembered something I didn’t even know I had forgotten.

I remembered the first time I distinctly realized that I was the girl who was different. I was the girl without a mommy.

The German School system is different from the American School system, so when I tell you I was in pre-school, I mean I was in my last year of kindergarten about to enter first grade and I was only one long summer vacation shy of being seven years old.

(No, I wasn’t held back a year. I’m an October baby and the deadline is in August, so … you do the math. You’re probably better at it than I am. Come to think about it, maybe I was held back a year?!)

Tradition wants that the last day of pre school is celebrated by taking on the little boys and girls on a glorious outing or in my case on a field trip to the local zoo.

The kindergarten teachers sent out information packages to the parents specifying what the children should bring a long on the trip and when to drop them off and where to pick them up.

I know it specified us bringing lunch in a backpack. The reason why I remember this so clearly is because my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Pich (pronounced “Peach” – sweet, huh?!), reminded us to bring our backpacks that our mommies would give us to kinder garden the next day.

The next morning, I didn’t have a backpack. It must have slipped my father’s mind. Somehow I knew it was vital for me to bring a piece of carry-on-luggage. I didn’t have a kiddy backpack, but I had something so much better. I had a pink sparkly care-bear lunchbox in which I stored all my favorite toys. So that morning, backpackless, I grabbed my pink lunch box filled with my most prized possessions (including but not limited to a toy car that changed colours when you rubbed it long enough with your sweaty palms) and walked myself to kindergarten.

I always walked myself to kindergarten. It was just across the park and it was the 80s so my father wasn’t too neglectful that way. A lot of kids walked themselves to kindergarten back then. Well at least preschoolers did.

When I got there not only was I the only kid who arrived without special parental attention, but I was also the only kid without a backpack.

For a moment most mothers just looked at me. Then my Mrs. Pich took be aside and asked if she could see what I brought for the special outing. When she saw that my lunchbox was filled with toys and other inedible items (including but not limited to a dried up marker), she asked me if I could do her a favor. She told me she had stupidly brought her lunch for today and for tomorrow. She wanted to know, if I would leave some of my toys behind and help her carry all the lunch she brought. Also she quickly tied a jump rope to my lunchbox so I didn’t have to hold on it around all day, but could instead carry it like an overgrown purse.

I don’t remember much more from that day. We saw animals, I think. Afterall it was a zoo. But I don’t really need to.

I have photos.

In all of them you see 12 happy children, smiling, laughing and having a great time.

All of them have little kiddy backpacks on their backs. Except for one. The brown-eyed girl with two dark thick braids carrying a glittery pink care-bear lunchbox tied awkwardly to her with a jump rope.

I remember sitting on the jungle gym for the group shot holding my lunchbox.

I distinctly remember feeling different.

But I also remember feeling special: I might not have had a mommy drop me off that morning, but I was the only kid that got to share Mrs. Piches lunch with her.

[ “Soul Killing” – The Ting Tings ]