Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thermos Flushing

Every day at lunch in elementary school, I watched my classmates open their colorfully embossed Bionic Woman, Incredible Hulk, or Dukes of Hazard lunchboxes and remove such delicacies as Wonder Bread sandwiches, Cheetos, Twinkies, Ding Dongs.

I would have given my left pinkie for a lunch like that.

After talking, getting a drink, going to the restroom - anything to put off the inevitable - I would eventually open my lunch.  Putting my old, non-themed lunchbox in my lap, I would remove my sandwich, bring it to my mouth as fast as possible, take a quick bite, and return it to my lap while chewing.  Never quite fast enough to remain unobserved, I had to then brace myself for the questioning that usually followed.

"What IS that?"

My dear mother made 100% whole red wheat bread, which more often than not rose only about half of its intended height while baking.  As a result, my bread was about twenty shades darker, two inches shorter, and an inch thicker (if you didn't cut it thick enough it would fall apart) than Wonder Bread, making it unrecognizable to your typical elementary school kid.

I could handle sandwich questions, but the fallout from the Thermos proved too much.

"What is that SMELL?"

This query frequently followed my opening the Thermos I would find in my lunchbox in lieu of a sandwich.  My dear mother, wanting to provide me with a hot lunch on occasion, would put warm leftovers - usually in the form of a casserole or goulash - in the Thermos.  The resulting smell, anywhere from slightly stinky to absolutely nauseating, would permeate the lunchroom - well, okay, at least the area surrounding my table -  almost immediately.

I finally decided to take matters into my own hands.  I went into the restroom and flushed the entire contents of my Thermos down the toilet.  It was exhilarating.

Thenceforth, I Thermos Flushed on a regular basis.  It was going swimmingly until the day I emerged from the bathroom stall, empty Thermos in hand, and came face to face with my little sister Debbie.  Triumph was in her eyes - it's not often a younger sibling is given such a gift as endless blackmailing possibilities against an older one.

As luck would have it, my sister decided to really think through the issue. She saw the light.  And everything changed. 

She, too, could Thermos Flush.

We became co-conspirators, flushing dozens, possibly even hundreds, of stinky lukewarm meals down the toilet during our remaining years of elementary school.

My kids have to make their own lunches.  Technically.  But without my intervention, they'd walk out the door with a handful of crackers and candy, if they're lucky enough to find any.  So I do my part by cutting apple slices, laying out bread for sandwiches, making sure carrots are in each lunch bag, lunch bags are in backpacks.

Minor, minor intervention. 

As they walk out the door, I can't help but wonder if they Thermos Flush.  Reality dictates that they do.  Apples and carrots and raisins and applesauce cups most assuredly go uneaten.

But here's what I'm banking on.

My kids will always feel a little guilty about their Thermos flushing.  Debbie and I did.

My kids will understand that, no matter what their mom put in their lunches, she did it out of love.  Debbie and I did.

Years later, when they know that the confession will be received with laughter instead of exhausted tears, my kids will confess, apologize, and thank their mom for all the lunches over the years.

Debbie and I did.
 Susie - Fourth Grade.  Debbie - Second Grade.  Will Rogers Elementary School, Stillwater, Oklahoma.


  1. I don't know why that brought tears to my eyes. Maybe they are leftover from my temple trip last night. Or most likely, because I could feel the love from your mom and the love of you to your kids and I thought of the days that my mom tried to make more out of little.
    You are an awesome and inspiring writer!

  2. Making school lunches took on an entirely different meaning when I heard Julia Pratt talk about how one of her kids came home from Primary one day and was telling her about his lesson on the miracel of the loaves and the fishes. He said, "Noone had any food, but there was this one kid, and his mom remembered to pack his lunch, and the Savior made it enough food for everyone." I think about that I try to remember all I need to do to nurture and nourish my children. I will do what I can, and the Savior will take my humble offering and make it enough. Just like the lunch packed by a loving mom thousands of years ago. Thanks for making me think about this today!

  3. Debbie Boyce BrannonMarch 8, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    I read this post with mixed emotions. We laugh about this all the time! But memories of childhood are sharp. I keenly remember the embarrassment of my lunches, and the "lightbulb" that went off in my head when I saw Susie flushing hers. What a wonderful sense of guilty, hungry, freedom. No wonder we were so skinny! Maybe there's something to be said for eating thick, dense, whole wheat bread and casseroles made from whatever is left in the refridgerator......