Bold Turquoise

Sep 29 2011

Fear of lunchtime

It wasn’t until I stood at the gaping doorway of the co-op lunch room, flanked by my two little people, that the flood of dread that had always accompanied lunchtime in my youth suddenly re-immersed me. How could have I forgotten how bewildering a full room of tables and bustling chitchat could be? Bustling chitchat between women and children who had mostly known each other for years and had no fear of entering that room and having no one to talk to. No one to sit with. No one to fill that great expanse of minutes with that is known in all school atmospheres as lunchtime.

It began in elementary school. Bullied, picked on, and forced to sit as close to the edge of the table bench as possible, just to attempt some peace during that dreaded half-hour. It’s not easy to avoid people you are sitting at the same table with.

Junior high. I changed schools. Got “popular” for a spell since I was the mysterious new girl. That quickly wore off and lunch became even worse than it had in elementary. In fact, it got so bad that I’ve actually blocked most of it out.

High school. New school again. New girl. Again. Shifting friendships and relationships left very little room for a consistent, comfortable table to be sure I could sit at each and every day. I found myself eating alone in stairwells pretending to study. Eating my lunch in 5 minutes flat just so I could go sit in my 4th period class and not feel the mocking eyes of those walking by who did have a consistent table and friends to always eat with.

I decided to graduate a year early. Much in part because the few friends I did have, who I occasionally sat with at lunch, were graduating. What on earth was I to do then? Yes, graduating early was, of course, the only solution to my lunchtime woes. (smiles wryly)

College. I set foot in the cafeteria one time. Count it- O-N-E. In a YEAR. And even then it was fully accompanied by a gaggle of girls from my dorm. A certain security blanket to the lunchroom plague.

Years passed. Marriage. Children. A home of my own with no cafeterias in sight. The hauntings of lunchtimes of old faded to a distant memory…

…Until that first day of co-op. Ugh. All at once I felt the joy that my children would never face that lunch time dread, since they will always be there with their family, and the complete bewilderment of finding a place to sit. Of striking up conversation and trying to create some sort of bond with these women and families.

The first week I lead us to a small card table in the far corner. It was open and safe. The boys and I could talk about our day so far. Yes, it would work just fine. We would be A-ok. Until I allowed myself to take in the cacophony of laughter and sharing happening all around me that we were clearly not a part of. The ache of being alone in the crowd. And I smiled that my children didn’t notice, but I ached.

Week two. I try a little harder. I aim for the middle of the room. An empty table, but in the middle of the room. Surely a better place to stumble into accidental conversation. And it kind of worked. A few families landed at our table, mostly by default I’m sure since the room was fairly packed. Smiling introductions followed by,”Your kids are so cute,” and “What classes are you teaching?” Light banter. It was better than nothing. A step in the right direction.

Week three. Aimed again for the middle of the room. But this time, oh this time, a mom who shares most of my same schedule and whose children are similar ages, was one table away. Across the table, but right next door to ours. We loudly voiced one-line statements about classes and kids over the hum of the room and between our children’s constant needs. Then… then she got up. She got up and pulled up a chair on the other side of her table right next to me. And we talked and shared lunch. I watched her littlest guy while she ran her other little man to the bathroom and we shared in the challenges of getting two-year-old boys to sit through lunch in a room packed with exuberant kids.

She got up from her seat. She walked around the table. She sat right next to me. It struck me in that moment what a small gesture that was. A gesture I am sure she had no idea bore any more significance then moving closer so that we wouldn’t have to yell across the table to each other. But to me it was a breakthrough. It meant that friendships were being formed. It meant that lunchtime no longer had to hold those bonds of fear and loathing. It meant that lunchtime could actually turn into a time when relationships could be built and nurtured while we did the same for our bodies.

It meant that God was providing. Providing in a big way. And I recognized it.

I’m filled with joy that God is doing a work, and I actually see it. I’m witnessing His work in my life and it is a beautiful thing.

Who knew so much could happen during lunchtime?

This post is filed under the BOLD confessional, the BOLD faith and has been tagged with Tags: , , , , ,

6 thoughts on “Fear of lunchtime

  1. Victoria

    Eating in a cafeteria of any kind, and at any age, can certainly make one feel alone in this world, even with all the people around us. Having a friend or family member to share it with really does make a difference. I’m glad you were able to see how God is working in your life, and were able to recognized the blessing He gave you this time around.

  2. angie

    I love it. I love that your friend walked around the table to sit by you and have a conversation. I imagine that it would feel just as special to someone else if you did the same for them 🙂 I can do this better in my 30’s, I never want to go back to high school!

    1. boldturquoise Post author

      Haha- I never want to go back to high school either! And yes, I hope to be able to extend that same kindness to others, especially next year when there are other new families!


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