May 14, 2021 Message to Members
I take a homemade lunch to work. I got back into the habit of doing so in 2013 when I decided to revisit some of my life choices, including daily exercise and healthy eating. With respect to my diet, it was the act of actually eating during the workday that I revisited. At that point in my life, I would often leave home in the morning without a lunch, and I would very often fail to buy a lunch at the school cafeteria. Typically, this led to raiding the cupboard when I finally returned home, the outcome of which was a tall PB & J, with three slices of bread. Some days I had two rounds of that delight, and then dinner. I really like bread, and it showed; but that’s a different story.
One homemade lunch this week included a guilty pleasure, one that stirred some cherished memories. My plan to eat more healthy choices would exclude this processed treat, but after years of denial I gave in and purchased a tin of Hereford Corned Beef. Now let us not fixate on the fact that this luncheon staple resembles cat food, and focus instead upon the stirrings it set in motion. I’m sure we have all experienced something that transports us. It might be a particular scent: the smell that fills the air when the leaves of cottonwood trees burst from their casings always makes me 12 again, surfacing memories of lazy Spring afternoons. And opening that tin of lunch meat with its special key will always transport me to lunchtime in my grandma’s kitchen.
I really like to drive, and in the months that I have been back in Vancouver, I have driven to Port Moody more than once. On one of these occasions, I chose to take the Barnet Highway. It is the long way, but when I was a child the Barnet was the corridor to the big city. Whether travelling by bus or driving as a teen, it was a magic winding ribbon along the inlet, lush with forest and brush, connecting the city’s towers to my small childhood hometown.
Port Moody was home because it was where my mother grew up and where her parents still lived. My grandma and grandpa lived in a little grey house on Moody Street at the overpass to Rocky Point Park. Grandma was so close to the elementary and junior high schools that I was able to ‘go home’ for lunch a few days each week.
I loved grandma’s homemade chicken soup, and she kept a glass jar of saltine crackers for crumbling into the broth. We always cooled hot soup with cold milk; I was nearly 30 before I realized most people don’t do that – imagine my fiancée’s shocked expression as she watched me flood my soup bowl as if it were cereal. Sometimes, lunch at grandma’s was grilled cheese and Campbell’s tomato soup, made with milk of course. The best days, made special because they were rare, a lunch of homemade bread with a thick slice of Hereford Corned Beef was served.
There were days when lunch was at grandma’s other kitchen: the auditorium of the Royal Canadian Legion. Grandma often catered lunches and special events at this Port Moody institution. Lunch at the Legion auditorium would include a burger and sometimes – if I was lucky – deviled eggs! That Legion branch is still there, but is transformed by time and surrounded by condos.
As I transitioned through school and into my career, a mid-day meal remained on the agenda. While my lunches couldn’t hold a candle to grandma’s, I consistently sat with friends and colleagues to ‘break bread’ each day. And then, somewhere along the way, eating lunch morphed into a luxury and seemed more of a guilty pleasure.
When I stepped into my first Vice-Principal position, I discovered there was no handbook to reference but some things were self-evident, including the need for student supervision during the lunch break. I don’t remember anyone telling me to spend the lunch break working, talking, walking, and dealing with students, but that’s what I began to do. And I continued to do it, much of the time out of a perceived necessity. It felt irresponsible, by no one else’s measure but my own, to be in the staff room at lunch longer than the time it took to refill my coffee mug. When I reset my thinking in 2013, I was surprised to discover that the subsequent shift in my daily habits was met not only with acceptance, but with approval and encouragement. Maintaining health and wellness should never be a guilty pleasure. And, in fact, those we serve deserve that we keep ourselves well; at the very least, that can mean taking a break and eating lunch.
And, in the interest of wellness and resiliency, consider starting with dessert sometimes. Take the long, winding way home. Sing along to that song you won’t admit is in your playlist. Eat one sour cream glazed doughnut. Play. Binge-watch with someone special, and share lots of hot buttered popcorn. Buy that tabloid at the check-out. Eat Chef Boyardee out of the tin, cold. Exercise to a disco soundtrack.
Include pleasures in your day – guilt has nothing to do with it.