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Anywhere You WAnt

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 7.52.09 AMDaughter and I told my two Grands that while we were on an overnight trip to celebrate their birthdays, each could choose a place to eat. Ruth, turning 6, chose the Rainforest Café for lunch. It was convenient for our shopping at Opry Mills where the girls would later build bears. Lou, almost 8, doesn’t like the Rainforest Café. Its thunderstorms. Loud, roaring and squawking animals. Trees and bushes. The food. She’d wait outside in the mall.

As Ruth and I followed the hostess to a corner booth, I heard Daughter use her mother voice and minutes later she and Lou joined us. Ruth loves everything about this restaurant that her sister hates. “Look! There’s the elephants making their loud noises,” Ruth said. This Grand was thrilled. She ate most of the hotdog and potatoes that she ordered while Lou sampled her tomato soup and ate two packages of crackers and a crunchy yeast roll. “Remember,” Lou said, “I’m picking the supper place!”

There were many choices near the Providence Marketplace in Mt. Juliet. After an hour-long swim in our hotel’s swimming pool, both girls were eager to eat supper. “What are you hungry for?” Daughter asked Lou. We settled into our van and everyone buckled seat belts, the girls seated behind Daughter and me. Lou said, “What’s the choices?” And that’s when Daughter and I made our mistake.

“Anywhere you want to go,” I said. Daughter added, “Look around. There are lots places here. You pick.”   Then we announced a few places. Panera Bread. Chick-fil-A. Wendy’s. New York Pizza. Lou shook her head after every restaurant we named. Daughter drove slowly around the shopping center parking lot.

“Wait!” Lou said, “Is that Kroger? Let’s go to Kroger!” Daughter and I laughed. “We’re not buying food to cook,” Daughter said.

“No cooking,” Lou said with a big smile. “Let’s go to Kroger and get Lunchables!”

“Lunchables aren’t supper,” said Daughter. “It could be. Get two,” said Lou. I named more restaurants. “Kroger. Lunchables,” my Grand said.

Daughter said, “There’s no place in Kroger to eat.”

“Then we’ll take them back to our hotel room,” Lou said. I said that I wanted to put my feet under a table to eat, not while sitting on a bed. “Then we’ll take them to the swimming pool. There’s tables and chairs there.” I didn’t explain that food wasn’t allowed in the pool area. We were passed the point of being reasonable.

“How about frozen yogurt?” said Daughter. I suggested Marble Slab ice cream.

“Kroger Lunchables! Kroger Lunchables!” Lou chanted happily. Ruth joined in. My two Grands clapped to the beat of their singsong voices. “You said anywhere!” Lou interjected. Daughter and I shook our heads and smiled at each other. “And I didn’t like the Rainforest!” Lou reminded us.

Daughter and I looked carefully at the sign painted on Panera Bread’s door. It didn’t say “No Outside Food” so we stashed Lou’s and Ruth’s suppers inside our purses. We chose a back corner table. Daughter’s and my bowls of soup were delicious and my Grands ate every morsel of their Luncheables.

“Haven’t you written a column about Luncheables?” Daughter asked. I nodded. “This might rate another.”

How could a grandmother and a mother, both former elementary school teachers, not name three choices? Never ever say “Anywhere you want to go.” Never.

 

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I Know the Feeling

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 6.58.02 AMLast summer Robbie invited me to bring my Grands, ages 8 and 6, to swim at her house while her 9 ½ year old grandson Noah was visiting. The children splashed and played along beside each other, just as children do when they meet someone new. At lunchtime, we all dried off and spread our towels to sit around the pool. Noah started inside the house, turned, and asked my Grands, “Do you’ll want a Luncheable?”

 

David and Lou frowned. I answered for them. “No, but thank you, Noah. We brought our lunches.” I handed my Grands the small cooler in which Daughter had packed their food. Rollup sandwiches, made with flour tortillas filled with thin sliced turkey and shredded mozzarella cheese. Hunks of watermelon. Clusters of grapes. Homemade cookies.

 

Noah settled himself beside David.   He ripped the thin cellophane covering off a square plastic package. Lou tilted her head and looked at the package. David eyed it and said, “What’s that?”

 

“What’s what?” Noah said.

 

“Your lunch?” David asked. Inside the six-inch square plastic package were three small round tortillas, 5 slices of pepperoni, some white shredded cheese, and a take-out ketchup sized packet of pizza sauce.  Lou furrowed her eyebrows as if memorizing the package’s contents.

 

“It’s like little pizzas,” Noah said. Using his teeth, he ripped open the packet and he squirted red sauce on a tortilla.

 

“Where’d you get it?” David asked.

 

“Nana gets them at the grocery or somewhere,” Noah said. David held his roll up sandwich close to his mouth but he didn’t bite it, instead he watched as Noah covered the tortilla with a pepperoni slice and cheese.

 

“That looks really good,” David said and he laid his sandwich back in the cooler. “Does every grocery store have them?” Noah shrugged his shoulders. “I wonder if Mama could find them.”

 

“I think they’re by the milk and stuff,” Noah said and bit into his miniature pizza. David and Lou watched as red sauce dribbled down Noah’s chin. I knew exactly how my Grands felt. I remember being envious when I was young and spent the night at a friend’s house and for breakfast her mother spread Blue Bonnet margarine on toast. At my house, we spread home-churned butter on Mom’s homemade biscuits.

 

Now, watching Noah and David and Lou, I restrained myself from raiding Robbie’s refrigerator for two more packaged lunches. “Noah, would you like some watermelon?” I said. He bit into the watermelon and somehow that reminded David and Lou that they, too, had food to eat.

 

But that’s not quite the end of the story. Last week Robbie again invited us to her house. “We’ll eat lunch and swim, just like last year,” I told my Grands. “Noah is there. And on the way, we’ll stop at the grocery store to buy your lunch, maybe Lunchables.” They chose exactly what they’d watched Noah eat a year ago.

 

My Grands and Noah pulled the cellophane covering off their lunches and each ate every morsel packed in those small plastic boxes. I knew exactly how my Grands felt. The way I felt decades ago when I carefully unwrapped a stick of yellow margarine, put it on a serving plate, and told my friend, “Mom is making toast for breakfast.”

 

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