Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Demand a panda

There was still plenty of rice left over from the Penguin, so I decided that, two weeks in, I had waited long enough to send my boy off with the first lunch that might actually embarrass him.

The boys in the lunchroom can easily identify it as a panda. Any girls who come over for an eyeful the cuddly little guy ("OOOH!") will see that it is constructed from fish stuffed into rice and rolled in seaweed, surrounding a ball of shrimp meatloaf. ("EEEW!") That's what they call "leading with the left," son. Better to learn it here than in the ring.

And now for some mitigation.

None of the fish is raw, it is canned salmon made into a salad. Just one step afield from a tuna fish sandwich. Also, just look at the photo for a minute and appreciate ALL the foregone opportunities for heart shapes. Carrot flowers, the tomato slice on the egg, the egg itself, the panda's toes, foot pads ... eyes. Think of me what you will, I kept this all above-the-belt. Except, I guess, that putting it in his lunchbox, not telling him about it and letting him open it in front of everybody was kind of like running up and rabbit-punching him while he was climbing through the ropes. But, hey, for some it's the sport of it, for others it's the theater of it, right?

As far as I can tell, it didn't embarrass him at all. In fact, it was still semi-recognizable when it came home after school, so he hadn't scrambled it around on purpose or thrown it away. The pickled green beans, the egg and two of the sushi-limbs were gone, indicating that he hadn't simply seen the lunch and then quickly stuffed it back in his bag. I had also sent a container full of blueberries and orange slices, so he spent most of his lunchtime eating that, probably with his lunch on full display the whole time. Since the Joker, I usually ask what his lunch was to determine whether they're remaining intact until he can eat them. I asked while we were in the car. "Panda," he said, smiling as he turned to look out the window.

When my wife and I went to Europe in 2002, I made sure our international flight originated in Atlanta, because they had giant pandas on exhibit. It's surreal to think about something this way, but I wanted to go and see this living, breathing thing with my own eyes because I thought it's entire species might finally disappear during my lifetime. That I might, someday, end up explaining that to my kids. That I would have to tease apart pandas from dragons and dinosaurs when we were separating things that never lived from things that lived a long time ago from things that daddy saw once and they'd never get to see.

"Did you like it?"  I asked. "Yeah," he answered, still looking out the window, "especially the blueberries." Then, beneath eyes locked in the "thousand-yard stare," he began picking his nose. And I imagined us engaging in an eerie repetition of our conversation somewhere in ... the future:

"What was lunch today, son?"
"Did you like it?"
"Bleep, dad, it was a nightmare! An ongoing, everyday nightmare! Panda is like welfare meat! I might as well just go down and get in line myself!"
"Now, son, panda -"
"'Is the most nutrient-dense and, if I say so myself, delicious of the traditionally-grown meat products available to members of our caste.' Got it, dad. The panda farm keeps a roof over our heads, the panda farm paid for my new jet-boots, blah, blah, blah. Do you know what M'thuselah Pitt-Joile-Willis brought for lunch today? Pegacorn. A unicorn with wings. Bioengineered, nanofactured, and braised."
"Is it so important -"
"To be like other people? No, dad, it's not. But it is important to not have you constantly drawing attention to me so that they don't all see that I'm not! And work on your Mandarin! You sound like you're from New Fujian for bleep's sake!  Bleep bleeped embarrassment."

No comments:

Post a Comment