Being a Mother is an overwhelming job. There are so many times a day, heck multiple times an hour, that I just want to scream with all the demands being made on me. It starts as soon as I wake up in the morning. I have to make breakfast for myself and usually five or six kids. I also need to pack Sam and Teresa a lunch for school. I am not a big fan of cafeteria school lunches. The offerings lean toward the less than healthy. My older two get to choose one day a week to buy and the other four days I supply their midday meal. I have to tell you, there are days when just the thought of having to pack their lunches is enough to turn me into a weeping mess on the floor. I don't know why. It' not that hard but when you're in the middle of breakfast and dressing kids and not having enough caffeine in my system it seems like the impossible. Times like these I can't help but wonder once again, how my Mom managed. Our school did not offer hot lunch. Everyone brought a lunch every day. When my brother Terry started school there were eight of us she had to make lunches for. Eight lunches every single day. Eight. The thought of having to make eight lunches makes me want to crawl into the corner and suck my thumb.
She did have a system. She had to have a system or she would have gone insane. She bought big bags of chips and divided them up into single servings sizes as soon as she got home from the store and kept them in a big jar. Woe be to you if you were found filching a bag of chips out of said jar. She made the same lunch for everyone, with slight variations. My mom would line up the brown paper lunch bags and write a name on each one. I loved how she made a smiley face out of the two o's in our last name. Then she'd pop an apple in each one. Next she'd lay out the bread on the center island along with the condiments, lunch meat and other sandwich fixins. She'd make the requisite number of mayo, Miracle Whip and mustard, bundled them into baggies and the little bag of chips went in last. This lunch rarely varied. During Lent we got cheese sandwiches and sometimes she changed up the type of chips but for most of my school days, from first grade through twelfth grade, that was what I got for lunch. Every morning I came down for breakfast to that long line of stuffed brown paper sacks. I never once gave a thought to all the time it took her to assemble them. I don't think I ever once thanked her.
You'd think being from a big family, we'd take whatever Mom gave us and not be very particular. Just be glad we managed to get some at all before the others ate it all. [As a joke my Mom taught us this grace "In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Who eats the fastest, gets the most." It's only partially a joke and mostly true. If you really wanted seconds, you better eat fast.] But no, we were picky little bastards. I liked miracle whip, not mayo and definitely not mustard. Terry had to have pb and j. Never bologna. Everyone had their own special request. Ungrateful wretch that I was, if she accidentally gave me Kath's sandwich, I made sure she knew about it. As did the rest of us. She made eight lunches every single morning while simultaneously making sure eight kids got dressed, bags packed, fed, hair brushed and on the bus.
Many days, the morning rush gets to me and I holler at my kids because they're dilly dallying or bickering. I don't remember her hollering at us to get going in the morning. She walked through the house knocking on our doors and woke each of us with a quiet "time to get up." Some of us required a second or maybe a third "time to get up" but she never rushed us around by yelling. She did yell however if we missed the bus. Can you blame her? One memorable morning my younger sister and I were arguing over the best way to make the bed (stupidest argument ever) and when we can downstairs the house was very quiet. My Mom had a look of shock flick over her face as the two of us tromped into the kitchen and then she hollered at us to beat the band. The private school we went to was a good half hour drive away and I'm sure she did not relish the thought of losing an hour out of her day or keeping us home either. Luckily two of my older siblings who drove to school were still home and they could take us. As a rule, we made sure we did NOT miss the bus. One or two of us was sent out to watch for the bus from the porch or sidewalk. As soon as it was spotted coming down the road, the lookout had to race up the front walkway, into the front door hollering "BUS!!!" as loud as humanly possible. Children would come thundering towards the front door from every direction and pour out the door.
I imagine my Mom must have sat down in her rocking chair with her coffee once we all disappeared onto the bus. Sat down and thanked God that she was done with lunches and hunting for socks and making sure gym uniforms were on underneath uniforms and sneakers packed into bookbags for twenty four hours. She made it through the craziness of the morning. The house belonged to her and one or two little ones crawling around on the floor...at least, for a few hours, until we galloped back in later that afternoon. I think of this as I stand in the kitchen with two little lunchboxes on the counter in front of me and I realize I have got to stop complaining and whining about how difficult my mornings are. Thank goodness I have a way to put my relatively easy life into perspective.