If you want to enjoy a four-star meal, an elementary school cafeteria is not the place to dine. If you’d prefer a low-key vibe surrounding you and your fellow diners during your meal, don’t waste even a millisecond considering an elementary school at lunchtime. However, if you desire raucous discourse and goofy, snaggle-toothed smiles, by all means join your favorite under-12 child for lunch.
I’m visiting my daughter and her family in Illinois this week. My three Illinois grandchildren are 15, 13, and five. When the teenagers were younger, Studly Doright and I lived just three hours away, and we were able to attend grandparents’ days at their school. But we moved to Florida when Harper, now five, was two, so we’ve missed out on meeting her teachers and classmates. Today, though, I was able to enjoy lunch and recess with her. It was an event I won’t soon forget.
Harper’s friends were eager to tell me not only their names, but their middle names as well as the names of every member of their families, including pets living and dead. Two little boys were disappointed that I didn’t know their respective grandparents who also live in Florida.
The conversation was entertaining and even briefly turned political when the angelic child seated directly across from me asked, “Do you know Donald Trump?”
“Well, no,” I said. “But I know who he is.”
“He tells lies ALL the time,” she said, with great solemnity. All I could do was nod.
After a lunch of oddly shaped chicken fingers, carrots, peaches, broccoli, chocolate milk, and some bug shaped crackers, we all put on our coats and headed out to recess. Harper held firmly to my right hand while a group of children with sweet and slightly sticky fingers, argued over who got to hold my left hand. We worked out a rotation and soon we were walking briskly around the playground.
I live in Florida where even in the winter temperatures rarely dip below 50°, so I knew I wouldn’t last long out on the windy 38° playground. For a few minutes I watched Harper and her friends clamber over various pieces of equipment.
I taught the five-year-olds how to play London Bridge is Falling Down. They thought it was hilarious to “take the keys and lock him/her up.” I began to worry that perhaps this game from my childhood might not be politically correct. Oops!
After playing approximately three thousand rounds of London Bridge I hugged Harper and said my good-byes to the adorable munchkins. Then I went back to my daughter’s home and took a well-deserved nap. But the dreams were sweet, and slightly sticky.