Post #365 A Cupcake for Lunch

May 6, 2015 at 10:48 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

When I was in the fifth grade, I took my lunch to school every day.  It was typically the same thing.  I’d have two sandwiches, either bologna and cheese or PBJ, an apple, and some chips or cookies.  Mom would change up the bread sometimes so it could be Wonder bread cuz we like Snoopy shooting our bread full of holes, or it might be some kind of whole wheat or grain bread.  I wasn’t a super picky eater at the time, but I always ate one sandwich, the apple, and whatever special was in the bag.  One sandwich would get tossed.  I never told my mom about throwing away the sandwich.  I think I knew she’d be angry.  My little brother always polished off both of his sandwiches, and when he found out I had an extra, would scarf that one down, too.  And lick the crumbs out of the bag.

Lunch time at school, back in the late sixties, was as social an event as kids could imagine.  There was always a teacher wandering the cafeteria to make sure we behaved, but we were allowed to sit wherever we wanted to and with whoever we wanted to.  We were allowed to talk, laugh, get a little rowdy.  When everyone was finished, we were released to the playground for however long was left of the lunch period.  Running and yelling were the major activities.  Even in winter, when the snow was up to our armpits, we’d still manage to get outside and move around and yell.

One day, I was eating my lunch.  It was two PBJs, fritos, three Oreo cookies, and an apple.  I don’t know why I remember those details except that I remember the whole incident.  I was sitting by myself for some reason.  The school bully was sitting across from me, slightly to my right.  I was a small kid, skinny, pipe cleaner arms and legs, looking like a strong wind would send me airborne.  He looked liked he’d been held back a few times and towered over the rest of us.  He wasn’t in my class, but everyone knew who he was.  That was probably why none of my friends were sitting with me.  It was too near to the bully.

So, I was eating quietly and minding my own business.  I was idly watching him, probably making certain he wasn’t planning to kill me or something.  He had a brown lunch bag, just like mine.  He pulled a single cupcake out of it and quickly devoured it.  Then he licked all the crumbs and icing off the cupcake paper.  He put the paper back in his lunch bag and crushed it all together with one strong stroke.  Then he sat back, glared at me, then watched the clock waiting until we were released to the playground.

I had looked down at my lunch when he glared at me, not wanting to make eye contact so he wouldn’t single me out on the playground.  But I wasn’t interested in my lunch anymore.  I couldn’t believe that all he had to eat was just a cupcake, and a pretty small one at that.  And there I sat with two sandwiches, knowing I was going to throw one of them away.  I remembered a few days before when I’d seen him eating a small bag of cheese puffs.  I’d assumed he’d saved them for the end of his lunch, as I might have done too.  Now I knew that those had been his entire lunch.  I just couldn’t stand it.

I looked up at him and said, “Hey!  You want this?  I’m just going to throw it away.”  I held out my second sandwich wrapped in wax paper.  I was talking quietly because I didn’t want to embarrass him.

His face lit up and he said, “Yeah!  Thanks!”  He reached for the sandwich and I slipped him the apple, too.  His smile got wider, then he tore into it.  He finished both of those before I finished my sandwich.  We split the fritos and cookies.

That night after dinner, I was washing the dishes with my mom.  My sister and I usually did this, but my sister had gone somewhere so it was me and mom.  We chatted for a few minutes, then I told her about what happened at lunch that day.

“Did you get hungry during the afternoon?” she asked.

“A little, but I don’t usually eat the second sandwich anyway.  It’s too much for me.  My brother usually eats it on the way home.”

She grinned at that.  Then she put her arm around my shoulder in a quick squeeze.

She still made me two sandwiches every day, but I don’t remember seeing the bully at school after that.  When you’re ten, your mind switches gears pretty quickly, and the loss of one stress element is only noted by its absence, not its cause.  I’ve never forgotten watching that kid eat that single cupcake and realizing that some kids, kids that I knew, go hungry.


We’re well into the month of May.  Within a few short weeks, schools will be closing for the summer.  Lots and lots of kids will rush into summer with the joy of long warm days to run and play and explore in.  Lots and lots of kids will lose the only consistent meal they could count on each day.

I’ve written before about the school lunch and breakfast programs, and how during summer they are suspended.  I just wanted to remind everyone that there are things that we can do that are almost painless.  Many of the products we buy have codes on them that we can enter into our computers at certain sites that will buy a meal for a needy child.  We can opt to go out to restaurants that support the No Kids Hungry programs when we decide to go out to eat.  We can donate canned and dried goods right in our grocery stores.  If you’re church-goers, you can donate time, money, food to church outreach programs.  Nearly every city has a community food bank you can assist.

When I think that I can’t do anything, I remember that single cupcake.


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