I have so many memories of sitting at the counter and watching my mom pack my dad's work lunch. My dad usually had kind of strange work hours, and often it would be right after our own lunch that my mom would take down the giant blue lunch box (really, it looked more like something you could pack a small family picnic in) and get to work slicing home made bread (also another wonderful childhood memory) and packing all sorts of things in sandwich baggies and tupperware. Occasionally I even got to help bag things or help make a sandwich. That was a big deal--no one makes sandwiches as good as my mom, at least according to my dad, so it was a special day when I got to help with the actual sandwich.
I also have many memories of my dad coming home late from work, and asking my mom if she was trying to starve him. Since he had only had a sandwich piled high, a yogurt, a banana, some chips, some cookies, some carrot sticks, and some peanuts. He couldn't survive on just that!!! Mom would find a way to pack even more of a picnic into that giant lunch bag of his.
You know how moms tend to get really busy? Well, sometimes my mom would be busy and wait until the last-ish minute to make my dad's lunch to take to work. That of course made my dad a little nervous, especially because anything less than a giant lunch box caused him severe hunger at work.
I remember one of those busy mom days, sitting at the bar watching my mom fly around gathering lunch items. I said to my dad, "Dad, why don't you just make your own lunch?" thinking that my mom might join in with me on that note. My mom just said, "Well, your dad and I kind of have a deal. He goes to work for us every day, and I make his lunch." And that was that.
I don't know if they ever thought of it as a "deal," or if they even had ever discussed it like that before. And I don't know if my mom knew how much that little sentence impacted me. From then on I saw lunch-making in my house a little differently. I saw my mom and my dad working together. I saw my mom serving my dad so that he wouldn't "starve" at work--so that he would have an awesome meal every day that he had to go to a job he hated. I saw lunch making as something very special.
The idea of making lunch being a most special service was only amplified when I got married. When I was student teaching, I would leave at 6:30am to catch the morning bus, and often wouldn't get home till around 9pm at night. During that semester, Robert got up at about 6 every morning to make my lunch for me and make sure I got out of the door with everything I needed. At first I used to feel guilty about him packing my lunch every day, but as this continued I viewed it as one of the most special things of the day--opening my lunch box to see what was there, and being so grateful every lunch hour for Robert's kind service.
Now that I am the one mostly at home, I get to pack Robert's lunch every day. It is still amazing to me how wonderful it feels to be able to provide that little service for him. On the occasional day that he has to pack his own lunch for whatever reason, I feel jipped and sad that I couldn't do it for him, even though, in his own words he's "a big boy" and can take care of himself. And in the mornings when I am rushing around busily trying to get everything ready to leave in time and he is already done, he doesn't ask about making his lunch or try to usurp it. He knows we have a deal. And he accepts.
I hope that someday I get to say to my "tween-age" kids "Well, your dad and I have a deal. He goes to work for us, and I make his lunch." And I hope that they can catch the packing lunch bug from me like I did from my mom. :-)