I have never been to war. I have not been involved in a plane crash. I have yet to be accosted by men wearing masks and yielding weapons. I have never been a passenger on a sea vessel which failed and sank to the bottom of the ocean floor. For the most part, I have somehow avoided the experience of extremely traumatizing events, until last Friday. On Friday of last week Amanda and I went to the elementary school cafeteria to eat lunch with Grayson and Andie Kate. Good God almighty, how those teachers and cafeteria workers do it, I will never know. Andie and Grayson had cornered Amanda in the kitchen earlier in the week and persuaded her into eating lunch with them on Friday. I decided I wanted to tag along. Being that they eat lunch at different times, we would have to first eat lunch with Grayson and then come back an hour later for Andie. The students are allowed to have a friend come and sit with them at the parent’s lunch table, so we were pleased to make acquaintances with Grayson’s friend Eli. I think that was his name, you can’t hear much in there. I saw an old friend of mine who is a kindergarten teacher at their school whose name is Jessica. You know how you have that one friend who you have gone to school with forever, and it seemed like that you coincidentally had almost every class together? That was Jessica and I. Ever since 4th grade I have been trying to steal the answers off of her paper, borrowing her notes, having her fill out any information that required legible handwriting, and relying on her to remind me when things are due. She has seen me get in trouble, then cry at the punishment at least a hundred times. If I had a dollar for every time she rolled her eyes in disgust at whatever stupid boy move I had made, I would be set for life. It is great having an old friend teach at your children’s school, it was especially comforting when they were new students who transferred over during the middle of the year. That can be so scary for a child (and an adult), it was nice to know that they were under a caring and thoughtful eye. Jessica comes to say hello and I introduce her to Amanda. I feel like I am screaming at the top of my lungs, because the sound of all the children is deafening. Grayson had earlier pointed out the “silent lunch” table, and it made me laugh. I asked Jessica if Grayson had ever eaten silent lunch, and she said, “no way. Grayson always behaves…..unlike his daddy, who spent 12 years at the ‘silent lunch’ table.” She was exaggerating a bit, but maybe not by much. Damn, these kids are loud. I can’t concentrate on anything. I am asking Grayson and Eli a bunch of dumbass questions, cause I feel like I should be saying something, but really I feel like crawling under one of these tables and sucking my thumb. A cafeteria full of third graders is not for the faint of heart. Finally, after what seemed to be about 3 rounds with Tyson uppercuts to the chin, Grayson’s lunchtime is over.

Wheeeewwwww, we made it through Round 1. It can’t get much worse than that. I don’t drink anymore, but best believe if I did, I would be doing it in the parking lot of that school. I’m surprised that elementary school teachers are not sponsored by vodka and rum. I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and I had only spent 30 minutes in a room with these kids, and didn’t have to teach em nothin, I just had to sit there and endure. We were in a “run out the clock situation”. We simply had to hold out and hold on for another 30 minutes and we would have performed our parental duties. Amanda and I sit in the parking lot of the school and practice our sign language. We have about 40 minutes until Armageddon. I should have probably chosen something a little more relaxing than sign language, but my brain wasn’t working properly. We make our way back through the school to sit down with Andie and her friend. I didn’t know who she was going to bring to sit with us, and I didn’t know if she was going to bring a friend at all. What I did know was that I was fixin to get down on some old school cafeteria food, and I was pumped. I LOVE CAFETERIA FOOD!! I would eat it everyday if I could. I cannot believe that Grayson and Andie do not want to buy lunch at school. Ahhhh, the stop sign pizzas, cellophane cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets (made without chicken), mashed potatoes and gravy scooped with an ice cream scooper, corn nuggets, rolls which can be eaten or used as projectiles, soup ladle corn, green beans, fruit cups,and 100 different items which can be used to disguise taco meat. You just can’t beat it. Today, was pizza day, and I would not let this opportunity pass me by. Andie was mortified that I was standing in line to eat school lunch. She was burying her head as if she wished she were anywhere else at that moment. The thought of the lunchroom pizza was the only thing that allowed me to drown out the chaos which was a room full of screaming 1st graders.

As I got closer to the cash register I took notice of the poor lady working the register. I asked her, “do you have to remember every kid that comes through this line?” She said, “I try, but sometimes its hard to remember, and most of the time they have forgotten their cafeteria number.” It was mind numbing to see what she had to deal with. No doubt, I would have strangled or throat punched at least 5% of the kids that passed by my register. As I got back to my seat, I find that Andie and her friend are both disgusted by my cafeteria pizza. I just can’t see how we can feel so different about this whole cafeteria lunch thing. They act like that I am breaking some sort of unwritten code by eating school food. In hindsight, I guess that I must have blacked out from all of the noise because I don’t remember any conversation that we had during lunch. i don’t even remember where Amanda, Andie, or her friend were sitting in relation to me. I think that this is how psychotic breaks take place. My brain is only capable of processing so much information, and the stimulus of the 1st graders in the cafeteria coupled by my excitement of cafeteria food proved to be too much. All of the sudden, Andie and her friend jump up and alert us that lunchtime is over. She runs around the table and gives Amanda a kiss. She looks at me as if I am a carrier of some sort of male virus, and she skips off to class.

We made it through lunch at an elementary school. It is such a gift that both of my children want me around. It is even more of a gift that I have a schedule, or willingness to work around that schedule, to make time for things like this. The real gift is in Amanda insisting that time be taken to do these things for the kids. Her schedule is nowhere near as flexible or open as mine, yet finds a way to squeeze in just about every event that comes up with the children. As for the educators, God love you. No way. Not me. I couldn’t handle a half day. Yeah, I’m sure that changes can and should be made in relation to our school systems and how our children are educated, but the fact that we get to drop those little monsters off in someone else’s care and they don’t come home strangled or beaten is really nice. The fact that they come home educated, well that’s a miracle. The next time that you think that you have a better idea of how to better educate our children, I think that it should be required that you sit through a day’s worth of school lunches. Only then after your energy is sucked from your body and your nerves rolling on pin pricks can you make suggestions of how you would like to boldly proceed. In the meantime, I’m gonna be over here feeling very grateful for things being exactly the way that they are. Hang in there teachers, if you need me, I’ll be curled up in the corner.

Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,