Just Another Sandwich

Just Another Sandwich

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Just Another Sandwich

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

Robert Frost

It didn’t seem like much at first. Just a sandwich. Just another tuna sandwich among the thousands of tuna sandwiches I had made over the years for my boys.

I got out the bread, the tuna, mayo, spoon, knife, listening to our old cat screech and purr as I opened up the can. Then it hit me—this was the last one.

I know, I know. A lot of wise moms insist their kids make their own doggone lunches, thereby instilling a host of positive traits, including a good work ethic and all sorts of other great lifetime skills and abilities a child will need in the outside world to be a fine, productive member of society. But I’ve been strangely selfish on this task. I have always liked the idea of doing this one act out of love for my kids. I want to make sure they’re eating right, even though I know they are fully capable of tossing the whole lunch, bag and all, into the trash as they head for the vending machines. I even used to make elaborate cartoons on their napkins every day, such is the weirdness of this mom. I stopped, for the most part, doing the rest, but making just the sandwich was something I held on to.

You see, it was one mom-thing I could still do that harkened back to days when little boys clutched canvas lunch boxes and couldn’t wait to see what treat or goofy cartoon lay inside. I can still see them running to class, shoes untied, grinning at friends, and disappearing through massive double doors.

As my two sons grew, there was less and less I was able to do for them. This was good. This was the way it should be. After all, it was my job to teach my boys how to not need me. It was the definition of bittersweet. But I stubbornly continued to make the sandwiches, except for a few interruptions in middle school when school lunches were in vogue and home lunches were, well, dorky.

It’s right, says the voice inside. Letting go is the way it’s supposed to be. My mind knows this. My mind gets it. My mind has wrapped itself all around this fact and all things having to do with this fact for a long time now. It’s my heart that doesn’t understand, and I don’t know how to tell it, because every time I try, I feel it breaking just a little.

In my two sons, now fine young men, I see faint glimmers of those little boys, divinely enhanced by the hand of God and the dance of time. Deep, robust laughter replaces nighttime giggles heard over the intercom, and pictures of school dress-up day with little clowns or spacemen are replaced with tuxedos and a corsage for prom night.

The pride my husband and I have felt in watching them grow does not dissipate. T-ball, soccer, karate, track, guitar-drum-French horn solos, open house art galleries at school, holiday band concerts, award ceremonies, when little eyes read first words, the first step, first bike, first Rollerblades, first skateboard, first car. No, the pride and joy in who they are never evaporates or pales, it continues to grow and grow and grow.

Like I said, it was just a tuna sandwich. But in the middle of spooning tuna salad on bread it hit me. Hard. This is the last lunch I will make as the mother of a schoolboy.

Some might say that I’m being ridiculous and tell me to get over it, but that’s not me. I intend to feel it all, just as I’ve felt every handmade Mother’s Day card, every big and little hug, every time I heard the words, “I love you Mommy!” (now morphed into a quick “Love you, Mom,” as a young man heads for his car), every single dandelion bouquet, every moment of every precious God-given gem of a day. I’ll feel it all, and feel it deeply.

I held the sandwich, now safely ensconced in a plastic bag, and thought for a moment about drawing a silly cartoon on a napkin for old time’s sake. I then sighed and stopped. No. Now was not the time to look back and try to retrieve something or wish for yesterday. Today was a day to get out his graduation cap, iron his gown, and get ready for the new adventures. I thanked God I didn’t sell all the days of their youth for a paycheck. We scrimped, we didn’t save much, but we had a hefty bank account filled with memories that only a close family can deposit.

When my youngest son walks forward to receive his diploma, my tears will be from joy, not regret. I will sit in the stands knowing I did my best and will savor every single precious memory of being there, holding them, and watching them grow. Not one single memory gets left behind when that tassel is turned and that cap is tossed high into the air. The memories live right along with me.

I held the sandwich for a moment and blinked hard as I stared at it there in the cellophane. It’s just a sandwich. It’s just a stupid sandwich. But in that moment I could feel one era coming to an end and a new one waiting breathlessly just before me, anxious to begin.

Wiping my eyes, I called to my son, “Time to get going, honey. Your lunch is on the counter.” I picked up my purse, kissed my boy on the head, and we made our commute to school one last time.

Change roars in whether we want it to or not, and I wasn’t ready for this particular train. But no choice was given, so the best I could do was board, knowing the journey has been an incredible ride—and as a mom, it never ends. But one thing I know for sure; this mom will never see a simple tuna sandwich in the same way ever again.

Lindy Batdorf

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