My older son is a picky eater; and although my younger son is not particular when it comes to food, I have always packed their lunches...since the day each boy started kindergarten. When they were in elementary school, they carried nylon Land's End lunch bags with their initials embroidered on the front. Jack's lunch bag was red; and Will's was blue. The front of the lunch bags had mesh pockets where, at the end of the day, I would sometimes find the little notes I'd included in their lunch that morning..."You'll do great on the spelling test!", "Here's what Daddy looked like when he was your age (along with a photo copy of their freckle-faced, red-haired dad)!", "I'm so proud of you." Although the notes were crumpled and stained with ketchup, I was happy to know that the boys had saved the notes instead of tossing them out with the empty Ziploc sandwich bags and juice boxes.
The summer before middle school, an older friend advised Jack to leave his Land's End bag at home and carry his lunch in a brown paper sack.
"Are you sure, Jack?" I asked. "Your red lunch bag keeps your food colder and holds more stuff."
"I'm sure," Jack said.
We found large-sized lunch bags at the grocery store; and, for the past six years, I have been packing brown bags full to the brim with lunches for my boys to take to middle school and now high school. I still add a note every now and then. Sometimes, when I'm putting clothes in the washing machine, I find the notes folded up in their jeans' pockets.
What will I do, I wonder, when they are away at college?
I will send care packages, of course; but that will not be the same as packing favorite sandwiches, and green grapes, and a surprise candy bar in those brown paper sacks. It won't be the same as imagining my boys opening their lunch bags at school on a good or bad or regular day and, in the middle of a crowded cafeteria, finding a little bit of home on the table in front of them.
Over the years, those lunch bags have carried a whole lot of love.