Every single day of the school year, I make my children's lunches. I don't know exactly how I lucked into this chore; it's certainly not due to my skill in the kitchen. Maybe it's because I don't work.
So, because I'm the village idiot when it comes to food, I get the lunch-making down to a science. I open the two lunch boxes and, like a conveyer belt, I throw in chips, nutri-grains, fruit, and a juice bag - everyday the same stuff, just twice as much stuff for the human garbage can - Bar Mitzvahzilla - as for the daughter. And then I make sandwiches for each, always being very careful in my slow-witted kind of way that I don't replicate the sandwich I made the day before. No. The kids must have variety, I insist on that.
Then last week I volunteered to help with my daughter's third grade class during lunchtime. Even I couldn't help but notice that there was some discrepancy there.
Some of the kids had the school's hot lunches. Others had fast food lunches that their parents had picked up and brought in for them. There were children whose lunches were lovingly packed - individual containers filled with stir fry, with spaghetti, with taco meat and taco shells, with little individual servings of every food group on the food pyramid. One child even had homemade soup in a thermos. Only my daughter sat there listlessly unwrapping her soggy sandwich out of a piece of torn tin foil, opening a baggy full of stale chips, then giving me a dirty look while she ate it. Oh.
It's really weird that I'm not better at this. I should have it in my genes to be better at this. I come from a long line of balabustas - extraordinary Jewish housewives. Women who could slaughter and then pluck a chicken while giving birth to a child, biting off the umbilical cord with their teeth, and then finish ploughing a field. My paternal grandmother was an object of great awe to me; I heard the stories over and over of how she breastfed my father until he was five. I would imagine my father as a kindergartner - even though he was in Poland and it was the early 1930s - running in their home, grabbing a quick lunch of some breastmilk, and then running back out again. My mother made this sound very logical, like that breastmilk was all the food the family had and only that kept them from starving. Now that's a balabusta.
As an immigrant, my mother might have been a little spotty on the American stuff like driving, or coming to parent/teacher conferences, or English, but she was a phenomenal balabusta. She raised seven children without any evidence of those seven children showing anywhere in the house at all.
But me? The evidence is in: laundry dried so long it comes out burned. Clothes wrinkly from sitting in laundry baskets for days. Sandwiches in my children's lunchboxes 200 days of the year.