Everyone has a go-to story. It’s usually from when they were in school and involves illicit substances, the police, or awkward dealings with the opposite sex. All of these are the makings of good barroom tales. Here’s mine.
It’s the one about how my mom packed a beer in my school lunch when I was eleven.
I was in the prime of my young life. Seventh grade was going to be The Year. Newly elected Student Council treasurer*, I finally had the power to affect change in the school, even if my jurisdiction only extended to rolling coins collected during Student Council bake sales. Even if the school didn’t host a hotbed of discontent among its students. Berkeley in the 60s, it was not.
*My opponent’s surname was Coin, yet I was still elected. This was highly meaningful for me at the time. The people had spoken, and a Pate – despite her non-monetary name – was the one they wanted handling their hard-earned $25.
Added to this accolade, I was also chosen to serve on the highly-selective Sign Crew, whose job it was to change the marquis sign in front of our middle school once every two weeks. The announcement of Parent-Teacher conferences? All me.
But at the top of all my accomplishments at age eleven was making the cut and being invited to join the school’s Pride Team. It was basically a glee club with a heavy Just Say No message. It’s an anomaly of the modern age that getting to be on my school’s Pride Team was such a huge deal in our little middle school community. It could’ve possibly been because our school was kindergarten through eighth grade; by the time you could try out for it at the end of sixth grade, you had been to countless assemblies from the age of five where the big kids dressed up as PCP and angel dust and did a sad pantomime to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Never before had not doing drugs looked so, err, glamorous (?).
Plus you got to go to Indianapolis for the National Pride Conference in the spring. And miss school. That may’ve had something to do with it. Maybe.
So my mission for my seventh grade year was clear: count the money and change the sign and be drug- and alcohol-free while doing so. Piece of cake.
Until one day when I went to the cafeteria to eat lunch. My mom packed my lunch, and let me tell you, that was FINE BY ME. I would occasionally partake of a rectangle of pizza on Friday or supplement my sack lunch with a purchased bag of Exploded Maze, but in general I was a big opponent of school lunch for what I think are obvious reasons. I attended a public school in the early-90s and if you think the slaw they schlepp out to the kiddies now is bad, just remember how foul it used to be. There was no Jamie Oliver or Rachael Ray making the rounds back then.
Canned peaches in a broth of high-fructose corn syrup nestled aside what appeared to have been broccoli several weeks ago.
Corn dogs that, once bitten into, turn out to be a thin strand of neon-pink flesh encased in stale cornbread and rammed with a stick. Sticks make everything fun.
And maybe some pudding. That was OK. But a “meal” in the general sense of the word it does not make.
All these items were laid out on a compartmentalized tray that appeared to have been fabricated with the same off-colored plastic as the chairs in our classrooms. And again, remember that these are pre-Rachael Ray days when orange wasn’t a color that you typically associated with delicious/nutricious food. Radioactive edible substances, maybe.
Yeah, I was more than fine with my mom packing me a lunch. She packed me the standard fare: a turkey sandwich, a piece of fruit like an apple or an orange, some raw veggies, and a can of diet cola wrapped in a napkin and a piece of aluminum foil.
One day, I went to the lunch room with my brown bag and sat down among my old pals. You see, my success in my extra-curricular activities hadn’t changed me and I kept my not-as-successful-confidantes close. We were sealed in the Circle of Nerddom that you’ll never relinquish.
I took out my soda and tore off the top of the foil to expose the pop-top, which I opened and took a swig of. But it was not caffeine-free Diet Coke. Oh no. It had a hoppy flavor that I associated with my dad after he finished mowing the lawn on Saturday afternoon. I peeled back more of the foil just to learn that…
MY MOM HAD PACKED A COORS LIGHT IN MY LUNCH.
With success comes responsibility. Or something. I couldn’t trust my old friends to help me handle this problem. I had suspected that they were extremely jealous when I got to put on my Pride Team uniform of blue t-shirt and white jeans and dance to “Rhythm Nation” for the school. This would be just the type of scandal they’d use to dethrone me and my Student Council treasurer-ship. So I was on my own.
I quickly ruled out discarding the full, opened beer can in the cafeteria’s trash compactor. Logically, the can would be found and dusted for prints and I would be lead away in cuffs within the hour. Justice was swift in the straight-laced borough of Germantown, Tennessee. So I had to get it off the premises of the school entirely in a seamless operation.
My mom had gotten me into this mess, so she would have to get me out. That is, she would have to get The Can That Shatters Empires out.
But at our school, using the phone in the front office was a tricky undertaking. Despite the fact that I held quite a bit of clout in all civic matters, I couldn’t just waltz up and demand to use the phone as part of my Sign Crew duties. I had to fabricate a reason to use it.
Luckily, I had one. The Spring Fling, held annually by the Student Council, was coming up that weekend. As a Major Planner of this event, I was enlisted in the decorating activities which were to take place the following day. I decided to tell the Front Desk Lady that I needed to use the phone because – WHOOPSIE – I had told my mom to pick me up late that day, instead of the following. Devious lies. Devious lies.
So I get my mom on the phone.
“I have a major problem RIGHT NOW that I cannot explain but you need to come here RIGHT AWAY and help me. Don’t tell ANYONE where you’re going. I’ll be in the front hallway. Come now.“
“Is everything alright, Emily?”
“I’ll see you in five minutes. I can’t talk longer. COME NOW.“
Lunch would have to take a backseat to the beer cover-up that day. I sat in the front hallway eagerly anticipating my mother’s arrival and her delivery of the sinful object out of my school. She arrived minutes later in a tizzy, probably concerned that I had gotten my first period on the one day when I wore my horrid white denim jeans to school.
I pushed the beer, concealed in the brown lunchbag, into her hands.
“Just. Get. It. Out. Of. Here. I will discuss this with you later.”
And just as quickly as the beer can came into my life, it was out again. And I could breathe and know that my dynasty as a middle school nerd would continue far, far into the future (or at least until the end of eighth grade. But let’s be honest: nerds never die.)
I would like to add now that it WAS an innocent mistake by my mom to have packed a beer in my lunch. These things happen. I’m sure I’ll someday pack an entire bottle of Kahlua in Bebe’s lunch in place of a Nestle Quik. Circle of life and all.
I had my first beer when I was 3. Seriously. Well just a sip but it still counts. So by the time I hit 7th grade I had already moved on to single malt scotch.
I hated the taste of all beer until like a year before I got pregnant. Now guess what I crave all the time? Cruel, cruel.
Dude. Me too!
Just curious what your mom’s reaction was. Great post! I once had to help a friend out in a similar situation when she packed a can of Heineken in her breakfast instead of orange juice. And we worked at a preschool. Glad you were able to resolve the situation in secrecy, without bumping anyone off.
She was a little mortified at first but all-in-all she think’s it’s hilarious (as it is.) Hopefully she’ll leave a comment and share her initial reaction. She does occasionally drop by the ole comments section.
It wasn’t a Coors beer but a generic store brand. It looked very similar to the store brand cola drinks that were in the fridge. Dad asked me not to buy beer after that and I didn’t. We never wanted to do anything, by accident or not, that would harm you or your reputation in any way. Still feel bad about it. It was a silly mistake that could have gotten you expelled from school.
Haha don’t feel bad! See how popular it’s making me in the bloggy world? :) It made me who I am! And at least you and dad didn’t have drugs or guns laying around that could’ve made it into my lunchbag. I have a feeling that would have been worse ;)
Jeeze. I wish my mom packed my lunch like that.
Haha, I KNOW you’ve got to be referring to the turkey sandwich ;)
It’s hard to decide which would actually be worse for you: the cafeteria food of the beer.
Most definitely the food. Most definitely.
The Pride team! I love it.
I am still tempted to put it on my resume!
Oh my gosh this is hilarious!
EMILY. This is the funniest and most amazing hilarious post you *ever* written! And you are funny all the time! At the summit of every paragraph, I thought I had reached the peak of all possible hilarity, and then I read on and laugh/snorted even louder. Thanks for making my day! Now, I gotta go read it again. Bye, I’ll call you tomorrow. :)
CAMERON. I love you. You are too kind. You’ve heard this story 100 times so it makes me happy that you think it was well-executed.
And I think you mean, “Buh, I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Well-executed is the understatement of the century. Tonight I went to a talk on the expansion on the universe, and I had to work very hard to keep this story out of my head so that I would not fill the room with insane guffaws. I am laughing while I am typing this. I love you!
I can’t believe no one noticed you take a swig of beer at lunch. hahaha.
Thank God my mom covered the cans in tin foil! I had to be really discreet about it. My friends would’ve definitely told on me (or that’s what I thought at the time.)
Hysterical!! You are such a great storyteller of life :D
And…keep us posted when you’re full of post-natal grog on what may come around that’s gone around, tee hee! Remind me to post sometime about what the church nursery lady found in our baby’s diaper bag that we accidentally forgot to unpack before Sunday…
Um, I NEED to hear this story. NEED :) You will most assuredly be getting some reminders.
When you’re calling your mom, I’m picturing you in sunglasses and a trench coat, muttering with your hand covering your mouth to thwart lip readers, darting your eyes back and forth and keeping your back to the wall. As an eleven-year-old. In white denim jeans. Maybe not the best sartorial choice for keeping a low profile!
That’s how I remember it! So very “inconspicuous”. Good thing all middle schoolers are ridiculous or I would’ve stuck out pretty blatantly.
This is PRICELESS Emily !!! Wait till Bebe hears this !!!
I hope it becomes one of “those stories” in our house :)
That is hilarious!
This story is like a dream come true. High fantasy!
Thank you! I live quite the fantastical existence! :D
Hi, just to let you know I have given you the 7×7 award because I love your blog. :)
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Your beer breath wouldn’t have passed muster with the school secretary at Holy Rosary, let me tell ya. Those public school kids get by with everything!
Hahahahaha! I don’t doubt it! She was FOR SURE keeping those kiddies in line!
I LOVE that you had her come just to take the beer off campus! And that you wouldn’t tell her why she was coming! It makes perfect sense to younger you. I probably would’ve ditched it in the trash but worried about it all year.
Well, our house was super-close and I knew she’d be available to book it up to the school in a pinch. But yeah, the secrecy may have been a wee bit melodramatic. That’s the eleven-year-old coming out. But honestly I think I’d still handle it the same way to this day.
That is awesome! I love the totally rational (like really at that age it would seem so) fear of throwing the beer away at school.
Well, honestly, what better things do school administrators have to do than go through the lunch garbage of their students? ;)
Oh wow. I’m super surprised you were able to now blow you cover by keeping the beer down. I think I would spit it out now if I were expecting diet coke, let alone at 11.
I think it was divine intervention that made me choke it down because in any other circumstance it would have come up!
Thanks for commenting!
[…] assigned; just did it on a Saturday afternoon. (For further reading on why I’m a nerd click here.) Two triple zero, everyone’s a […]
I would say you logically probably should have just told a trusted adult at the school about the situation as honestly as possible. Then I remembered at this age no adults in schools could be trusted. 7th grade was by far the worst grade for everybody. You were weird.
I totally agree. Hopefully my child will have more sense than I did at that age.
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[…] the rest of the group. Of course it did. OF COURSE. In the two years that had elapsed since the beer-in-lunchbag incident, I had developed an acute awareness of my nerdiliciousness and figured that if I called to the rest […]
This is hilarious! It reminds me of the time I sat in soda, and it totally looked like I was having my period. That was the end of the world.