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Thanksgiving Feast (Or Famine)

Yesterday was Maddie’s Thanksgiving
Feast at school, and family members were invited to come eat their
holiday lunch with the kids. The meal was most illuminating, and I
learned a lot.

For starters, eating with a plastic spork is just about impossible.
The shallow tines on it will barely spear a piece of turkey because
they’re only about an eighth of an inch long, and the spoon
part is less than perfect since some of the food just slides off
the tines. I get that it’s a two-fer thing: two utensils for
the price of one. I just hope I don’t have to use one again
any time soon.

Then there’s the cafeteria food. And
let me say, we’ve got a great public school system, with food
that’s probably above the national average. But my rolled-up
turkey slice was saltier than the Pacific and only a generous
slathering of the cranberry jello-like sauce made it workable for

This was Cora’s first foray into cafeteria food, and she
squealed in excitement when she saw chocolate and strawberry milk
in the refrigerator. Having never had strawberry milk, she begged
and I acquiesced.

I guess I had something mildly tinted in mind for the strawberry
milk, but it was Pepto-Bismol pink and Cora drank less than a
fourth of it. From now on I’ll direct Maddie to the chocolate
milk, which I’m hoping is not artificially dyed brown.

On the up side of the whole experience, I had a glimpse into
Maddie’s day-to-day lunch time in a way I’d never had
before: when a parent comes for lunch with a child, we eat at a
special table set apart, but for Thanksgiving Feast day the
families were woven in with the students. Maddie’s
neighborhood friends were all around her and it was nearly a party
atmosphere, waving and gesturing across the cafeteria constantly. I
loved seeing her in the midst of her friends like that, and it made
me feel a bit better about the whole school thing.

A bit.

Every party has its closing time, though, and when the time came
for us to leave Maddie at school she lost it (see many previous
blogs about separation issues). I walked her to recess and she
clung to the fence, sobbing and begging me to take her with her.
She looked like a little refugee being abandoned by the Allies
behind a barbed-wire fence, and it took all my willpower to refrain
from snatching her up, running wildly, and not stopping until we
were safely ensconced at home.

The saving grace here – again, Maddie’s friends. They
saw Maddie crying and circled around her immediately. Elise began
dancing and making funny faces like a clown, desperate to distract
Maddie. Hannah started listing all of Maddie’s favorite
games, hoping to entice Maddie away from the fence. Becca stood by
Maddie, patting her back and murmuring “It’ll be
ok” over and over again. As I walked away, half a dozen
friends were working hard to cheer their friend up.

Four blocks past, I dared to turn around and take a look. There was
my child, still glued to the fence, still crying. And bless her
heart, there was Becca still, patting and murmuring.

I don’t know how long it took Maddie to calm down; I do know
that when I picked her up she almost started crying again with
relief. Was the briney turkey and neon-pink milk worth the agita?

I’m going to say no. Though I wish it were different.


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