Monday, June 2, 2014

The Power of Lunches

I have been in a reflective mood lately.  You see, my job  for the past 30 years is about to come to an end.  Thirty years ago last fall, my oldest daughter entered kindergarten.  That was the day that my job as mothering school age children began.  Now, in just a few days, that job will come to an end when my youngest son graduates from high school.

When I think of my "job", one word comes to mind:  Lunches.  My daughter, Janelle, wrote a college essay on the subject of the power of lunches. 

"This I Believe"
by Janelle Magnusson Anderson

I believe in the power of lunches.

My mom has six children and a husband, all of who needed a lunch for school and work. And so mom made seven lunches every day for twenty five years. That’s over 63,000 lunches.

Love seems to be expressed in two ways: word and action. Over the years, I began to realize that mom’s lunches were full of love. Every day, my brown paper bag held basically the same thing: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, tortilla chips, and water bottle. But it also held something more.

Each and every lunch held time. Mom’s day began earlier than mine. She would be up early in the kitchen, spreading peanut butter and washing apples while in her pink robe. Making lunches only took a few minutes, but those were precious minutes that I could use putting on makeup instead of bagging my own sandwich. Mom never called attention to this time she spent serving. She just did it because she loved me.

Each and every lunch held acknowledgment. Mom wrote our individual names on all the paper lunch sacks. Kind of elementary, I know. But mom liked writing our names. She would say them out loud as she wrote, writing them phonetically: “Janelllllllllllllllllle” for Janelle. “Li-a-sa” for Lisa. There is love in a name spoken and heard—something so personable and individual. Sometimes kids at school called us names, or made us feel as if we did not have one. But at lunch time, there was our name in front of us. It was a mother’s acknowledgment of who we were. And we knew that it was spoken and written with love; because of that, nothing else mattered.

 I think I first began to realize what lunches meant to me in elementary school. Some kids brought things like “lunchables,” which was the unspoken “cool” lunch to bring. These included yummy treats like candy and mini pizzas, and they didn’t come in brown paper bags. I remember sometimes wishing I could walk into the cafeteria with a “cool lunch.” But then, my brown paper bag occasionally held homemade cookies or rice krispy treats. All of a sudden, I was spoken of as the bringer of a cool lunch! My friends would “ooo” and “ahh” over my good fortune of a mom who would actually make treats for me. And then my cookie would get split into eight different shares and passed around the cafeteria table.

Love is spoken through acts of service, and my mom served me every day of my school career. Not only did her lunches fill me nutritionally, but I was also daily filled with reminders of her love. Now I live away from home, and so I make my own lunch every day. What do I make? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Though they aren’t spread with a mother’s love, I don’t think I will ever eat a sandwich again without thinking of my mom.

Thank you  Renee, Rachel, Lisa, Janelle, Kristine, and Sam for letting me mother you during your Elementary, Jr. High, and High School career.  And thank you for the honor of always being your mother, no matter what your age is.  


  1. Coming from a rather large family, making lunches was a team effort. Each evening my mom would say, "Who's going to go make the frosted graham crackers for lunches?" We usually enjoyed that job - because we got to lick the frosting bowl all by ourselves!! I like Janelle's essay - it rings true!

  2. I'm so excited for you as you approach the next phase - it's a different kind of wonderful and you'll be great at it!!

    Sending my love and lots of happy thoughts!!!