Friday, April 23, 2021

I loved school lunches so much, I didn't care that I had to wash the other kids' trays to eat them.

Did I look so happy because it was "Fiestada Pizza" day?
My mother didn't allow television or sugar in our home, so other kids' houses were magical places with Saturday morning cartoons and Skippy peanut butter. 

I still remember the kitchen where I had my first bowl of Frosted Flakes after a sleepover. And the counter where I first had Skippy peanut butter, served on Ritz crackers at my best friend's house after school.

After tasting Skippy, I spent lunch hours frowning at my scratchy whole wheat bread dabbed with snot-like "natural" peanut butter and wanting to steal the other kids' sandwiches made with smooth peanut butter slathered onto soft white bread. Until suddenly in the Fourth Grade, my mother announced my sister and I would be getting hot lunches in the cafeteria.

That was cool.

I was so excited I couldn't sleep the night before, then spent the morning steeling myself for when I reached the front of the line and the woman taking money shook her head. “Sorry, hon. Your mom called. She changed her mind.”

But the woman taking my money (before I got my free punchcard) didn’t even look at me, so I stepped up to the counter, feeling like Charlie walking into the Chocolate Factory as I watched beautiful mounds of forbidden foods piled onto my tray. When I got the food safely to a table, I nearly had to sit on my hands to keep from rubbing them together as I surveyed my bounty.

In the main section of the tray was a hamburger with a white, fluffy bun that I had only eaten in restaurants, plus some even more exciting french fries to the right. Above the fries were some boring carrot and celery sticks, but in the top left, almost hidden by the bun, was the most exciting thing of all: dessert! 

That first one was actually my least favorite, a fruit pie. Thinking it was just a weird-shaped donut, I bit into it eagerly and ... Yuck! The outside was good, but the inside dribbled down my face and tasted like warm cocktail syrup. Whenever I saw a pie again, I just carefully nibbled the crust off the edges, making at least one boy run up to ask, eyes shining, "Are you going to eat that?!" before he saw the bite marks.

My favorite dessert was definitely the peanut butter bar, a dreamy square of everything that made Skippy great. After I tasted that, I always checked the dessert section first and usually ate it right away, since having an older sister who felt entitled to grab things off my plate taught me to take what I wanted the most first.

My favorite main dish was this crazy mix of tostada and pizza shaped like a Stop sign called a “Fiestada Pizza.” It made no sense, but I found the soft dough topped with sauce, melted cheese and bits of hamburger meat delicious and fun to eat. When I put the monthly lunch calendar on the fridge, I circled each day with Fiestada Pizza to make sure I never missed them. Though I never would anyway because I never missed school.

The magic of those lunches never wore off for me, even when I learned I was eating them because of something called Aid for Families with Dependent Children, the fancy new term for food stamps, and that I would have to work in the cafeteria. Most days, I just presented my monthly punchcard and picked up my tray with no one but the woman who gave me a new card every month knowing I got my lunches for free. But once a month, I had to go behind the counter and spoon up food or wash dishes like the other AFDC kids.

I always asked to wash dishes, because then you worked in a small room near the exit door where hardly any of the other kids noticed you as they hurried out to the playground, instead of facing them as you doled out their food. And I also liked working alone, free to just focus on cleaning the trays, which I actually enjoyed.

My favorite part was rinsing off all the food bits by pulling down the hose hanging from the ceiling and blasting the trays with a jet of hot water, smiling as even the stickiest mess just slid off. Then I’d stack all the trays on their side in a rack, slide the rack into the big, square metal dishwasher and push the big red button to scald them clean.  

The tray-washing room was probably a lot like being trapped inside a huge washing machine, but I didn’t mind. All of the noises and actions were a predictable, soothing break from the constant chaos created by crowds of kids, and I found the work satisfying and absorbing.

My job at the cafeteria was the first of many I would have in food service but still my favorite, because there I never had to interact with customers or co-workers. It was just me and the trays, which I loved pulling warm and clean from the machine to stack into a large pile that always made me smile.

But of course I never told my mother how much I enjoyed washing dishes at school, or that would have become my job at home, too!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

My Grandmother's Journals: April, 1996 (Posting again with more entries)

My grandmother and mother on Easter, 1949.

In tiny notebooks, my grandmother wrote down each day when she woke up, where she ate breakfast, what movie she went to see, the mail and phone calls she received, then what she read and watched on TV before bed.
In 1996, she was 80-years-old and living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif.    But I wouldn't describe her as lonely; she was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet. (I wrote more about her life in an earlier post.)  
Close to her home was the famous surfing spot called Pleasure Point, and she loved walking to the ocean and watching the surfers. When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to those waves with a friend of hers and we each dropped some at the sand. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood.
That was cool. 
In April of 1996, she was still watching and reading Pride and Prejudice, keeping up on the  arrest of the Unabomber, buying and exchanging clothes and curtains, then cursing herself for a finger cut that led to a $118 doctor's visit.
Monday, April 1, 1996
(Cat in NYC got her kittens from fire)
Up 8. Breakfast McDonald's.
Deposit for girls.
Mailed letter to Sandra.
Taped STNG, part one of two, Mark Twain, and Beethoven concert.
Bed 10:30. Slept heavy.

Tuesday, April 2, 1996
Throat sore, like a cold.
Breakfast at Ferrell's on 17th.
Caught cold?
Worked in yard, bed early after Morse.

Wednesday, April 3, 1996
Up 8:30 a.m. Plane down in Croatia, Ron Brown killed. He was sharp man and dresser.
Breakfast at Kmart, looked at curtains.
Home, rested. Wrote Justine, sent video.
Got groceries, white vinegar $1 cheaper than at Albertsons.
Forgot to tape the second part of (Star Trek: The Next Generation).
Stayed in bed except for news.

Thursday, April 4, 1996
Awake 7:40 a.m. Cold in chest now.
Ate here, then 10 a.m. at Carl's Jr. 
To bank, to Kmart, got 84" curtains.
Much news about Brown and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski; family gave FBI info.
Put up side curtains, rather fancy. Too long. Will return tomorrow.
Tired, cold in chest.

Friday, April 5, 1996
Up 8:30. Watered, fertilized roses.
Breakfast Burger King.
To Kmart, exchanged curtains.
Mail, letter from Carla w/directions to show.
To show, Primal Fear. Good.
Watched part of Geraldo, X-Files. Some news.
Bed, couldn't sleep. 

Saturday, April 6, 1996
Up 9. Ran French tape.
To library, looked up words.
To show, "Faithful." Language. Not good.
Lunch at Burger King. Ate too much!
Home 2:30 p.m., read. Warm.
Walked East Cliff 6:15 to 6:45. Storm waves unusual.
Showered, washed hair.
Watched news, bed.

Sunday, April 7, 1996
Change clocks. Slept until 8 (9).
Ate here. Tennis, wrote Mina.
To PO with letter. 41st pickup 11 a.m.?
To show, "Bottle Rocket." Amateurish.
Home 4:30, some yard work.
Took stitches out of curtains.
Taped Sommersby. Watched Masterpiece Theatre.
Cold in night! Fog came in.

Monday, April 8, 1996 
Not good rest. Tired. Up 9ish.  
Breakfast at McDonald's. Walked in mall, checked T-shirts.
Justine called, returned call.  
Bed at 9:30 p.m., unable to sleep until 2 a.m.

Tuesday, April 9, 1996
Up 9 a.m.! To Burger King for burrito.
To launderette, 1 person there! Three washings, including rugs and curtains.
Erik's Deli for lunch.
Home 2:30 p.m., rested. Took Dristan.
News at 5 p.m., "Morse" 6 to 8, Law & Order, Frasier. Taped "Face of Evil."
Bed 9:30 p.m. Slept fair.

Wednesday, April 10, 1996
Awake 4:30 a.m., then 8:30 a.m. Donut at corner.
To Louden (Nelson Center) for blood pressure, OK.
To library, to mall. Two shirts at Gottschalk's, two shirts from Miller's Outpost.
Home 1 p.m., ate here.
Dumb - cut finger

Thursday, April 11, 1996
Up 8:30 a.m., Breakfast 10 a.m at Denny's. Crowded, Spring Break.
Finger good, no pain.
To mall, returned and exchanged shirt at Gottschalk's.
To show, "Flirting with Disaster." Gross, explicit oral sex.
Home, 3 p.m., watered lawn.
Ate here, no mail. 
Watched Mystery, two women detectives, good, unusual.

Friday, April 12, 1996
Up 7 a.m.! To doctor's, finger OK. Doctor offered me a job. Joking?
Ate Jack-In-The Box, to library, then show: "James and the Giant Peach."
School is out, audience was riveted.
Home, rested, read.
Watched X-Files.

Saturday, April 13, 1996
Up 8 a.m. Breakfast at McDonald's. Spilled coffee.
Mailed packages, Mina's 3.75, Andra's 7.20. 
Post office crowded, talked to woman from Aptos.
Went to Beverly's Fabrics, no iron-on tape for hems.
Mail from Mina, new ATM card.

Sunday, April 14, 1996
Up 9 a.m., showered. Coffee, donut. Walked, beautiful day.
Made two calls, wrote three letters. Took to post office.
Watched 60 Minutes, Cybill.
Police came across street?
Bed 12 a.m. Forgot to endorse check.

Monday, April 15, 1996
Good sleep from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. Neighbor leaves at 5 a.m.!
Got paper, to bank regarding unendorsed check. No worry!
Laundromat, breakfast Kmart. Got four cans of Dinty Moore, make-up, bath tissue.
Home, sprayed and fertilized roses.
Watched Poirot, reruns on TV.
Slept good.

Tuesday, April 16, 1996.
Awake 7:30. Used earplugs, did not hear 5 a.m. truck.
Breakfast McDonald's, walked to Capitola.
Home 11:30 a.m., ironed, washed two pairs of white pants: one larger legs, one small.
Ate here, read papers.
Watched news, some Geraldo.

Wednesday, April 17, 1996
Awake 7:30, up 9. Breakfast Lyon's.
To Penney's, Gottschalk's. Checked pants legs.
Lunch here. Mail, ads.
Watched Geraldo, Al Cowlings, he took OJ on "Bronco Ride." 
Finished Pride and Prejudice. 
Bed, slept better with ear plugs.

Thursday, April 18, 1996
Up 8:30. Breakfast Burger King.
Home 10:15. Ironed, wrote Carla.
Dentist 1 p.m. Tooth x-rayed. May have abscess? 
Ate at Wendy's. Got salad to go.
Mail, letter from Prudy.
Called Justine, left message.
Watched some P&P video.

Friday, April 19, 1996
Up 8:30, Breakfast at corner, donut.
To show, "Family Affair." Good. Enjoyed.
To library for info, books, videos. Got bio of Jane Austen.
Home, watched news, Cheers, P&P, X-Files.
Read papers.
Cold, rain in night. 

Saturday, April 20, 1996
Up 7:30. Breakfast McDonald's. Busy!
 Home, read. Showered.
To show, "Antonia's Line." Good.
To Wendy's, home. Watched "Indiana Jones - Temple of Doom."
Walked, home. Tired.
Bed early. Letter from Mina.

Sunday, April 21, 1996
Slept until 10:30 a.m. Breakfast here, to (Watsonville) Kmart.
Bought some dinners, ate grilled cheese sandwich. Did not order fries, got them anyway.
Home, got some summer clothes out, some winter to wash.
Hemmed curtains.
Read until 2 a.m.

Monday, April 22, 1996
Up 9:45 a.m., rushed to breakfast at Carl's Jr. 
Home, letter from Sandra. Fertilized roses, put snail bait out.
Paid fone bill, gas $1.479 a gallon.
To Kmart, got plastic philodendron, put in bathroom.
Dodgers vs. Atlanta, 2-1. News, hemmed curtains.
Bed 9:30 p.m., read a bit. No sleep until 1 a.m.

Tuesday, April 23, 1996
Awake 8:30 a.m., breakfast at McDonald's. 
Drug Emporium, got Fels-Naptha {laundry bar soap that I still buy}, TV Guide and cookies.
Home, Dodgers and Atlanta. Rain-delayed twice. Atlanta up 2-0 until 8th Inning. Piazza hit home run with 2 on, then 3-2. Held it!
Mail from doctor, $118!
Some Morse, Law & Order, Frasier. 

Wednesday, April 24, 1996
Up 8:12. Breakfast Denny's.
To Louden for blood pressure, down: 122/78!
Mail, cable bill.
Watched news, ironed four tops.
To Live Oak, ate with Yolanda.
Walked at West Cliff, home 5 p.m.
Watched news, Law & Order, Twyla Tharp.

Thursday, April 25, 1996
Disjointed sleep until 3 a.m. Read until 4 a.m., up at 9 a.m. Breakfast at McDonald's.
Phoned Clothes Closet {consignment shop}, all items sold - get $18!
To show, "Last Summer in the Hamptons." Good, felt real - not actors!
Home, read, some TV. Justine called at 6:45 p.m.
Competition last weekend in Irvine, they did very well.
{I didn't tell her about all the alcohol, weed and hot-tubbing the hundreds of us college kids enjoyed while at the Irvine hotel together, but I'm sure she could imagine it just fine.}

Friday, April 26, 1996 
Bad night. Up 9 a.m., to donut shop.
Walked on East Cliff Drive, talked to man. Long board competition tomorrow.
Home, Albertsons and McDonald's: got salad. 
Wrote to Justine regarding nightgown.
Reviewed Mina's letters. Bed 10 p.m., up three times.

Saturday, April 27, 1996
Up 8 a.m. Watered lawn. To 41st Avenue donut shop, lost money in newspaper machine.
Ate McDonald's. To bank, home. Beach, walked. Surf competition not starting.
Read paper, news. Baseball, Cubs at L.A. Lasorda goofed. Left pitcher in too long.

Sunday, April 28, 1996
Did not call Paris! Up 7:45 a.m., breakfast at donut 41st.
To show, "Mulholland Falls." Violent, (Nick) Nolte and Melanie Griffith.
Show late starting 10 minutes, I told a worker. Not good, editing bad. 
Man could not stay seated, out for drinks 3 to 4 times. 
Baseball, Cubs won over Dodgers 3-0. Chan Park, Korean pitcher.

Monday, April 29, 1996
Awake 7 a.m., up 8 a.m. Breakfast Burger King.
Drug Emporium, got more allergy pills, TV Guide. 
Very hot today, stayed inside until after sundown, passed out rest.
Got $30 credit from PG&E.
Watched Poirot, Cybill. Bed 10:30 p.m., slept good even though hot.

Tuesday, April 30, 1996
Up 7:15 a.m. Donut and coffee at corner.
Walked to Capitola. Kmart, got flowers and Kleenex for car.
Watered lawn early, wrote Justine, sent clippings.
Went to post office, got gas additive, home 4:20 p.m. 
Watched news, Geraldo, Law & Order, Frasier. Taped "Diary of Jack the Ripper."