Monday, May 14, 2012

A Littlelunchalong

This is part 2 of a 10-part series on a small book of sayings from Amy's grandparents: "Wise Words from Eleanor and Eugene Becker."

“Mom, do you have a “littlelunchalong?”

The first time I heard Amy speak this, I tilted my head sideways with a furrowed brow like a dog hearing a strange noise.

“Yes, I have some cheese crackers,” was her mother’s reply.

I cleared my throat.
“Um, excuse me, but, um, what was it you asked for?”

And in unison, they both turned and said, “Eleanor always said to bring a little lunch along,” with the ending spoken as one word: littlelunchalong. And so began my schooling of Eleanor Becker.

The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” Bringing a littlelunchalong is, in its essence, just a specific variant. A very essential variant. That is, if you are heading out, you might get hungry, or someone you are with, particularly a small child, might get hungry. And you might be in a place where food is not easy to find or is expensive or not what you want. And if that happens the hungry person is going to be less effective as a parent, as a partner, or a child. And if that happens, misery soon follows.

Food is basic. If you include water with food, it’s number two, right after air. Air, for now at least, we don’t have to bring along. Water and food? Better bring it!

Here is the scenario: Running late, grab the kids from after care, get stuck in traffic. No food, no water.  Outcome? You start praying for the asteroid to take out the planet.

Here is an alternate scenario: Running late, grab the kids from after care, get stuck in traffic. You grab the gold fish crackers and juice boxes you always add to your lunch container. Outcome? Global peace and communion with your higher power!

If you have kids you know what I’m talking about. The asteroid is only a slight exaggeration, but I think it helped make my point.

I asked Bonnie, my Mother-in-law, about all this and she shared:

Yes, parental self survival is a major component and frequent benefit of Eleanor's admonition always to take "alittlelunchalong" for "you never can tell" when it might be needed.  But thinking about it more it also speaks to a level of self-sufficiency, about caring about the well being of those around you, an ability to plan and think ahead.  Having a reputation that other people can depend on you and not be disappointed. Feeling of being needed.  Eleanor definitely had all those qualities.  It was probably her expression of the atavistic desire to protect ones loved ones.

Bonnie is a smart woman – I even had to look up “atavistic!” However in listening to Bonnie’s recollections I began understanding that a “littlelunchalong” was as much about being dependable as being prepared. It was about protecting loved ones. It wasn’t only about carrying food with, but to have some basic essentials for travel. A band-aid, tweezers, lip balm. Her daughter shared these qualities too. After Amy died I became aware, very aware, that I was not equipped for everyday occurrences.  I couldn’t reach into my purse and pull out a small plastic bag with a needle and thread for the loose button.  It’s not that I didn’t have a purse – I didn’t even consider the need. Carrying that gear had, by default, been relegated to Amy. She happily took on that responsibility. Due to gender or lineage, I can’t say for sure, but that was one of her responsibilities in our family.

After my recent, forced stint as a single dad, I see the wisdom of a littelunchalong. Perhaps someday I'll not have to worry about it anymore:

Siri, where is the lunchalong?
I have found one location near you with lunchalong. Would you like me to call her?

Until then, I’ll pack water and crackers.

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