He has carried the same lunchbox to school with him almost every school day (except for the days he orders hot lunch) for the last five years.
As I have done for all my school-age children, I ordered it for him out of the L.L. Bean catalog when he started kindergarten. It was a bright apple green color, with black trim, and I paid a few dollars extra to have his monogram stitched on the front pocket in black thread.
Over the years it has faded and gotten dirty from being shoved in and out of backpacks and cafeteria lunch buckets. Recently, he informed me that his lunchbox is, "lame".
He sighed to me one morning as he was cramming his lunchbox into his backpack, "Mom, I have carried this same lunchbox FOR. EV. ER. I had it when I was a baby! Can I ever get a new one?"
Silly me. I had no idea that a lunchbox had the ability to be lame. It is, after all, just a lunchbox. You put a sandwich, some baked chips, a squeeze yogurt, and two cookies in there, and VOILA! The job is done. Not lamely, I might add.
We are a practical people. We don't replace things unless they need replacing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Lame or not, the lunchbox stays.
Every Sunday night, my job is the same. I pull all three lunchboxes out of the pantry, line them up on the counter and get to work filling them, saving myself the job on an already harried Monday morning. As I was about to unzip the lunchbox of my oldest son, the purported, Lamest Lunchbox of Them All, I noticed a small bulge in the small, rarely-used, top zip pocket.
I was afraid at what I might discover once the pocket was unzipped. A rotten apple core? A half-eaten granola bar? Orange peels?
Hesitatingly, I unzipped the pocket, and stuck my hand inside. I was stunned by what I found.
Napkins on which I had written notes to him.
He had saved them.
I don't know why I never noticed this small little bump in his lunchbox before, but I looked over at my next son's lunchbox, and I saw the same thing.
This third extra pocket, too small to hold more than a bag of fruit snacks, held the napkins on which I had scribbled words like, "I love you! Have a great day! Love, Mom" or "I'm so proud of you! Good luck on your science test!"
My love letters to my children.
Writing notes on their napkins is not something I do every day. It is not something I do every week. It is something I do when I think they need to hear it, whether it be encouraging them to do well on a test, or I just feel like they need a smile.
But I had no idea they actually cared. In fact, the older they get, the more I thought it would embarrass them. Most days as of late, with the exception of their birthdays, the napkins placed inside their lunchboxes on a daily basis are white and silent.
Before bedtime, I asked them about it.
"Yeah Mom. Of course I saved them. We like when you do that," my oldest son said very plainly.
"You do?" I asked, still trying to absorb this somewhat shocking information. "You mean it doesn't embarrass you that I write, 'love' and hearts on your napkins?"
"Naw," was the general consensus among my boys.
Is it ironic that I discovered these napkins the night before Valentine's Day?
Of course it was.
Every mother of a boy wants to raise a kind man.
A sensitive man.
A man who is not afraid to express his feelings.
A man who treats others with respect.
A man who notices the little things.
Luckily, these three boys of ours have my husband, their father, as the perfect example.
On these days when I feel like I am losing my two oldest boys to the moody tween years which will soon evolve into the teen years, I will remember this.
That they still need their mom. Even if they don't always say it, I know it.
As I continued packing lunches last night, I decided to go for it.
Heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
And another note scrawled on a napkin, for good measure.
Anything to liven up an otherwise lame lunchbox.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Wishing you love and happiness in your life, wherever you find it.