Columbus Magnet School, I’m thinking 1988. My Shaina was in Carol Lewis’ kindergarten class, and I was taking advantage of a Wednesday off from work to join in for lunch. Carol would take wallpaper samples from area home decorating businesses, cover place mat sized discards in plastic wrap and assign a name to an incoming class member. Then, for lunch… lunch for kindergarten taken in the class room… a student was given the task of putting the place mats on the three (or four?) tables in the room (n.b. there are no desks in Columbus School. Established on the Bank Street model. Tables, block corner & spaces).
A parent coming for lunch, Carol would let daughter or son set the tables. I had a guest mat. And Shaina put Kara Morrow at our table. And so began a memory for my life time.
I brought a simple sandwich (probably bologna and cheese) and a clementine. Shaina? Probably a turkey roll-up, string cheese, a Clementine (we’re Clementine people) and a juice box. And one person down to the left of me, Kara brought a lunch that would put a smile on the greatest of gourmands. And tribute should be paid to her Mom, Lokie, who prepared this repast. I wish I could remember in detail the variety of foods that Kara tucked into. I can’t. But I can well remember the joy in her expression as she worked her way thru… Sandwich? Cup of soup? Carrot and raisin salad? Rice pudding? You get the idea.
And so a simple picture has remained with me going on nearly thirty years. A picture that I love, in part because it gives me a chance to connect to a picture of Shaina at that age. My Dad told me years ago that you remain young when you can see life through the eyes of the young.
Since the days at Columbus, I chanced a meeting with Kara, then high school or college age… I think it was at a SoNo Art Festival. She was with friends, and it was just a “hey, how are you!” I loved it, and it triggered the memory of Columbus School. I may have mentioned that lunch, probably not. Sorta silly to bring up so incidental a detail. But that lunch would never have been far from my mind.
And perhaps our lunch that day found its best representation in a book that I loved to read to my children:
“Well,” said Frances, laying a paper doily on her desk and setting a tiny vase of violets in the middle of it, “let me see.” She arranged her lunch on the doily. “I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup,” she said.
“And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And a vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with… and she made the lobster-salad sandwich, the celery, the carrot sticks, and the olives come out even.”
A beautiful picture. A beautiful memory for me, only to sadly learn that for Kara, life didn’t come out even.