It turns out that the topic of school lunch has an almost magical ability to draw out of people authentic memories and stories from their childhood. It certainly did for me. Who knew?
And that's the topic of the "big idea" that I'm sharing inside the FREE Big Idea Festival over at bigpictureclasses.com today. (Join in on the fun here. Today's the last day!)
I've got an 8-minute video that's all about writing for the sake of writing (and also school lunch), a memory dump for you to read (brought to you by Southland Elementary School, circa 1984), a challenge for you to try, and the rest of the scrapbook page you see below. Yes, that's me in the 2nd grade. Aren't you just dying to pinch my cheeks?
My big idea was inspired by Anne Lamott, author of the book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, which I originally borrowed from the library but then had to purchase because it's that good.
Here's a portion of the lengthy quote that I shared in my video. This is Lamott's quick memory dump, an exercise she frequently has her writing students try, and it's focused solely on the sandwiches from her elementary school years:
"Your sandwich was the centerpiece, and there were strict guidelines. It almost goes without saying that store-bought white bread was the only acceptable bread. There were no exceptions. If your mother made the white bread for your sandwich, you could only hope that no one would notice. You certainly did not brag about it, any more than you would brag that she also made headcheese. And there were only a few things that your parents could put in between the two pieces of bread. Bologna was fine, salami and unaggressive cheese were fine, peanut butter and jelly were fine if your parents understood the jelly/jam issue.”
“Grape jelly was best, by far, a nice slippery comforting sugary petroleum-product grape. Strawberry jam was second; everything else was iffy. Take raspberry, for instance—...It felt like there were all these tiny little pod people in it. It was Body-Snatcher jam.”
When you're overwhelmed by what to say or where to start, Lamott suggests starting by describing solely what you can see through a 1-inch picture frame. So she started with the sandwich.
When I delved into my own childhood memories from the Southland Elementary cafeteria, images of "hot lunch" surfaced the strongest for me, although I think I brought "cold lunch" from home in my blue Smurfs lunch box just as often.
In my own memory dump, which you'll find inside the Big Idea Festival classroom today, I share a little bit of everything, including the dramatic story of a classmate who choked on a hot dog and was saved from certain death by Mr. Wright the Janitor and his knowledge of the Heimlich manuever.
Does anyone else remember these lunchtrays? And did you know you can purchase them on etsy.com and even Amazon?
Today's the last day you can register for the festival, and once you register, you're free to go back and watch all previous 13 big ideas shared so far—and you'll have eternal access to everything! I'd love to see you share your own school-lunch memories inside the Big Idea Festival for your chance to win something cool.