When Kevin was in kindergarten, I packed his snack carefully; little cubes of cheese, cucumber slices, crackers, and maybe a juice box. I don't remember, to be honest. Over the years the lunches that I have dutifully packed every morning have blurred one into the other, all consumed and enjoyed, but eventually forgotten.
I've sent love notes.
Tucked in treats on special days, or made something really special that drew almost the whole lunchroom to his table.
Sometimes his treats were stolen by other kids, numerous times his lunch box destroyed when kids began kicking it around.
There have been days where I forgot to send cutlery.
Once I accidentally sent a tupperware of raw hamburger when I grabbed the wrong container.
A few times he forgot the lunch on the counter.
Once he dropped a container of soup in the hall and it exploded.
Over the years he has attended four different schools in three communities, and many days, the only good thing about his day at school was his lunch. I took pride in those lunches, because I knew they were my only way to make his day brighter. Those lunches were healthy. They were a piece of home he carried with him. They were ours.
It's been eleven years since that first lunch-now I'm an old pro at it. Veggies or fruit are chopped and tucked into containers in the fridge, or the hot meals in the freezer are ready to defrost and slip in the bag. These days packing a lunch takes about 5 minutes. I pack his lunch when I pack mine, mostly to make sure that my lunch is healthy. This morning ritual has taken place for eleven years, from September to June. The morning is always the same; the rush of getting out the door, me threatening to leave him behind, the frenzied cries of "where's my KEYS?!" (usually me), and finally, the sigh of relief as we both are in the car and backing out of the driveway.
This morning I packed his last lunch. Next year, it's online school for grade 11 and he will simply have to walk to the fridge to find himself something to eat. It's going to be a whole new world for both of us, with no rushing out the door, no threats of being left to take the bus, and no conversations on the way to school.
For the longest time, I thought I'd never miss those hectic mornings. I am happy-oh, so incredibly happy for this boy who has finally found his niche. We are so excited for the whole world of possibilities that are opening up for him, and I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled we are for him.
But as it is when you have only children, this last lunch is bittersweet because I realize as I pack it, that it is also the last morning I will chat with him on the way to school, then call "I love you" as I watch him walk up the stairs into the building. From now on when I go to work in the morning, my passenger seat will be empty.
Part of me doesn't even want to think about it.
I hope he doesn't mind a few tears mixed in with his vegetable curry.