MILK and Whiskey grew up under the watchful eyes of two biological grandmothers (and one Japanese step-grandma tossed in later for wackiness). The experience of being babysat by the two grandmothers was drastically different. Our mother’s mother (along with great grandma Mamie) had made it her mission in life to fatten up Northern California. Grams would stuff you and your friends full of food and candy pretty much the whole time you were there. Really, the woman will feed anyone who gets within sandwich handing distance. I suspect she keeps extra sandwiches in her enormous purse.
On our dad’s side, eating was a significantly more structured affair. Grandma Ping portioned and doled out meals with extreme attention to everybody getting exactly the same thing and not a bit extra. I assume this was a side affect of raising three hungry boys on a budget. She may have invented “California Cuisine”.
Her meals were an exercise in negative spatial arrangement; it was like a Japanese florist plated them. At dinner, every plate would have one fried chicken drumstick, peas and carrots that I’m pretty sure she counted, and an isolated scoop of pasta. This was to guarantee no one could complain, ever. And pity the poor fool who did complain. She could shoot a look that was known to knock pheasants from the sky. The only things you could self serve were rolls from a basket, or wine if you were a grown up.
If she packed your lunch for school it was always the same thing: A de- crusted peanut butter and jelly sandwich that looked like it she used a T-square. A single perfect yet oddly small piece of fruit, two Milano cookies, and a Thermos for your beverage. All this attention to detail could give a kid a sense of peace and order in an otherwise chaotic life. Nothing unexpected happened on Grandma Ping’s watch. Ever.
Until the day my lunch exploded… in my face. Ping apparently was out of milk or juice, and put straight Coca-Cola in my Thermos. She failed to mention this to me. All day long the thermos sat in my lunch box becoming ever more volatile. I ran across the playground with it, I tossed it into my cubby, I abused my stuff in the usual kid fashion. Then I sat down for lunch.
I pulled the now fairly squashed minimalist sandwich, fruit, and thermos out of my Raiders of The Lost Ark lunchbox. I immediately ate the cookies and unwrapped my sandwich. I took a bite of sandwich, then I opened the folding sippy thing on the Thermos.
My lunch detonated into a world of sticky brown foam. I was soaked and the kids next to and behind me were lightly sprayed. It was like one of those Diet Coke/Mentos videos, if you were looking straight into the two liter. I sat stunned for a second, coughing and sputtering because a bunch of it went up my nose. Then came the secondary explosions. I have it on good authority that never in the history of third grade lunch has that much milk shot out of that many noses at once. All the kids started cracking up; it took three lunch attendants and the vice principal to restore order.
I got up, dripping carbonated sugary goodness and trudged to the bathroom. I tried the best I could to clean myself up, but without a change of clothes and a shower there wasn’t much I could do. So I spent the rest of that day at school and the three hours at daycare after looking like that kid with the boomerang in The Roadwarrior, except stickier, and way more popular with flying insects.
When my dad picked me up that evening, he stared at me… several flies were orbiting my amazing hairdo.
“what the hell happened to you?” he asked.
“My lunch exploded, can we go home?” I muttered.
“Coke in the Thermos?” He asked with a knowing smirk.
Ping was his mother after all.