When I was a little girl my mother used to take great effort in packing our lunches. Not really so much effort into what went in the brown paper sacks, as I wanted the exact same thing every single day, but more so into the bag itself. Peanut butter and grape jelly is easy. A creative paper lunch sack every day is not quite such an easy task.
I am certain there were years in which I had a lunch box. I was the sort of Lisa Frank junkie that I am certain I would have wanted something with pastel unicorns and stars all over it. I know I at one point had a Gem lunch box as well. At some point though either my mother got tired of buying us lunch boxes or my brother and I simply no longer cared about them, because we went to paper lunch sacks only. I know incredibly unfriendly to the environment, but it was the mid 80's, what do you want from me?
So every day we would go to school with our lunches tucked away in a simple brown paper sack. I am not certain if Mom was bored, or just getting her craft on, or if she felt bad that we had paper sacks instead of cool lunch boxes; but every day she decorated the bags. Some days we had vines and flowers drawn all over the bag and some days we would have stick figure pictures acting things out for us. All we knew was that there would be something cool on the bag. Even our friends would get jealous of our bags sometimes. Total win.
The outside of the bags were not the only thing that my mother worked on. Like I said before our lunches were fairly standard, so we never actually got any surprises food wise. At least no food surprises that I can recall. What we would get on occasion were notes. They were notes of encouragement on days of big projects or tests, notes to tell us how much she loved us and how special she thought we were, silly notes written in code*, and little reminders that we could do anything.
I can't speak for my brother, but I know that every time I opened my bag to find a note I would get excited. They always made me feel better and they always made me smile. Nothing like an unexpected note of love to make your day better.
When I went away to college, after my family had left I was feeling more than a little anxious. I laid down in my dorm bed the first night and was beginning to doubt my choice in going away for school. When I put my hand under my pillow I felt an envelope. I opened it up and inside was a letter from my mom. She had slipped it under my pillow when I wasn't looking. It told me how proud she was of me and how happy she was that I was going out on my own. She told me she loved me and believed in me. I used to re-read that letter when I thought I just couldn't make it one more day.
Yesterday my mom was flipping through some old craft magazines looking for inspiration for a Christmas project. As she flipped through the pages she found an old grocery list tucked away. Upon examination she determined it was from one of my grandmothers previous hospital stays. She continued to flip through the pages and toward the back she found another slip of paper.
She almost just discarded it thinking it was another list, but decided to look at it instead. What she found was that it was a note from me. It was just a little something to say that I loved her and reminding her of all the notes she used to slip me when I wasn't looking. I reminded her how much I loved her and how she had made me the woman I was, and that I was lucky to have a mom like her.
My mom says she cried and that it was the best gift she could have.
I wish I could say I even remembered doing this, but I don't. It sounds completely like something I would do and it is signed by me, so I don't doubt that I did it. I just can't remember when I did. It has to have been years ago. I mean it has to have been at least four or five years ago. I am certain when I did it I assumed she would find it shortly after I left if she found it at all. It never occurred to me that she would find it so many years later, and when she needed such a thing so much.
I am glad though that I was so thoughtful, even if I can't recall the act itself. I am glad I brought my mother happiness when she needed it most, even if I hadn't planned it. It just shows that everything happens for a reason and everything happens in its own time.
*This backfired on mom once. She wrote my brothers note in Pig Latin and he of course couldn't read it. He asked his teacher to translate it for him. The teacher either didn't know Pig Latin or was just screwing with my brother and mom. He told my brother the note said that after school he could come home and get the ice cream out of the freezer and eat straight from the carton. Mom was both unamused and amused all at the same time.