I could have sworn I’d written this little gem up back when I was rolling through the hilarity of small-town gradeschool. I’ve searched Blogger repeatedly to no avail. So here goes, and my apologies if I repeat myself.

Scene: Third grade. New school. Child of hippies, no television set, livin’ a dome home on 121 acres that were home to two other hippie families. Giant communal garden. I wore a lot of corduroy. I think you can understand that even though it was only third grade? I was not destined to be embraced by the small conservative burg of northern Iowa, and indeed, I would embark on the path of class president (bossy), class treasurer (who loves money? Me!), Yearbook and Drama (I carry those skills with me to this day.) The prom queen queue was already full. Anyway, back to third grade. I had spent the previous summer eating Cheerios for breakfast. Every day. Because Cheerios, at the time, was doing a promotion. I’m sure a lot of other companies had jumped on the patriotic bandwagon, since it was 1976, however, I lived in the boonies and didn’t have a tv, and was too busy reading The Classics. All I knew was that my mainstay cereal was suddenly putting decals in the box, and I got the brilliant idea to start affixing them to my kelly green lunchbox. I probably had ten long skinny stickers proclaiming “Spirit of 76!” “Bicentennial!” with flag colors all over my lunch box. (My father surely had to see it as some form of jingoism, but thankfully he must have also seen my enraptured excitement at the decoration process, and he let me continue.)
Many a lunch traveled to school, and each day I walked home from the bus down our 1/2 mile lane, swinging my bright green lunch box, admiring my handiwork and embellishment.
Then. One day came, when alarms sounded, and we looked at our teacher’s face. Immediately, we knew something was wrong. Our principal came running door-to-door and had a hurried conversation with each teacher. Our classroom was on the third floor, so he was a little out of breath, but all of us saw the stricken look on his face. And our teacher’s. He then turned to the class and said, “There’s a bomb in the school. I want everyone OUT.” Well,hi. We all went into a flippin’ panic, and jumped out of our desks, and people (big people, adults) were shouting at us to get in line and evacuate, and I remember my little legs just shaking like they were about to collapse. We grabbed whatever bookbag we had in our desk, exited the building, they moved us all way away from the school, just in case it exploded and the rubble blast took out the normal bus lane, and we were trucked home, about two hours earlier than normal.

Everyone was scared, I remember a couple of boys hoping the school would, indeed, blow up because then we wouldn’t have to go to school tomorrow. I was numb, not understanding why someone would want to do this, and then as I got off the bus, it hit me: my lunchbox was still in the classroom. My prized, prized lunchbox. And I bawled the whole way down my gravel lane, and surprised the hell out of my father, who was working in his woodworking studio. “Jennifer! Why are you home so early? What’s the matter? What’s going on?” And I told him, while snuffling and alternately wiping my nose and my tears…. there was a bomb in the school, and I LEFT MY LUNCHBOX and it’s going to BLOW UP. I saw my little lunchbox in pieces in my imagination, burn marks around my decals.

God love my father, but he always approached emotional situations with me like I was 32 and could be completely reasoned with. “Jennifer. It’s a lunchbox. It’s not that big of a deal.” Being an adult, he focused on perhaps the bigger issue: a bomb blowing up our school.

Not me! HI! WHAT PART OF THE WAILING right now tells you it’s not a big deal? However his words were usually my cue to suck it up and get it together, and do what I normally did, which was retire to my room and sob into a pillow until I got it all out. My lunchbox. Poor poor lunchbox that had spent its entire summer getting decorated, waiting patiently for another box of cheerios to give up its prize.
Of course the mystery was solved by early evening, as parents all around town received phonecalls informing them that it had been a prank, by a high schooler, who was trying to get out of a test he hadn’t studied for, and thought that a bomb scare at the gradeschool would create enough of an uproar and everyone would go home early. He was correct, but he – like so many of us that age – neglected to think through the back end, in which he was caught and in a heapload of trouble.

We returned to school the next day, and there sat my lunchbox on the shelf, exactly where I left it. Intact, every glossy sticker unharmed and in place. I was so relieved!

The only other notable thing that happened that school year (beyond the Snow Queen thing)(oh, and Jeff running away & being chased by the principal in his truck) was that someone brought in a chrysalis, and we watched it daily to see the pale milky green thin and the bright orange monarch wings start to appear, and our teacher told us to make sure to let everyone know when it was opening, so we could all watch this transformation (and learn! it’s science!)….and some doofus named Scott noticed the first break in the chrysalis, and watched as the butterfly extricated itself completely, and THEN raised his hand and told the teacher that the butterfly was out and he’d watched the whole thing. I was SO MAD, because I so desperately wanted to see the unfurling, the process, the damp wings being waved for the first time.

I think it’s fair to say that I can pretty much trace my desire to punch another person in the face straight back to that moment. What the hell, I should’ve clocked him upside the head with my Excellent Lunchbox.