Remember Lunchboxes?

Remember lunchboxes?

I do.

My first lunch box had a Pac-Man theme and was made of metal.  Inside I carried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a thermos, and little power pellets that I’d chew on when I wanted to eat the bullies at school instead of running away from them.  Then the edges of the lunchbox rusted and would cut gashes in classmates who brushed up against me.

The following year I tapped He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe, to represent my lunch. If I needed the edge for a coloring assignment, or a group of other kids who were hogging the swings, I would hold the lunchbox up to the sky and a lightning bolt would strike me, and I would shout “I have the power” and get sent to the nurse’s office.

In second grade I had a Transformers lunchbox.  A few twists and turns of the lunchbox would transform it into a robot that would sit on my desk and do absolutely nothing.

In third grade I bought a lunchbox based on The Wuzzles, a Disney cartoon named after creatures that were a cross of two different animals. One was a cross between a lion and a bumblebee, another a cross between a bear and a butterfly. Yet another was a cross between a cow and a pig, and caused dietary problems for many viewers. On the way home from the store, I stole frequent glances at the face of my Wuzzles lunchbox, and could not wait to show it off at school.

The night before the first day of school, however, it occurred to me that, unlike He-Man and Transformers, The Wuzzles was not considered exclusively a “boy’s show,” and that some classmates might feel entitled to argue that a Wuzzles lunchbox was a “girl’s” lunchbox. I prepared a brief arguing that the lunchbox was gender-neutral, and placed in my lunchbox, sandwiched in between my sandwich and cookies shaped like Keebler Elves.

The next morning I sat on the school bus with my lunchbox face down on my lap. A few times I peeked at the face of my lunchbox to see if it had changed to G.I. Joe, but the Wuzzles just peeked right back at me. And for a moment their vibrant cheery blended-species faces filled my heart with gladness.

My teacher made us put our lunchboxes in the back of the classroom.  Lined up from the left were the Thundercats and Go Bots luncboxes, and from the right were the Barbie and My Little Pony lunchboxes. And front and center was my Wuzzles lunchbox, colorful and proud.

I kept looking around the classroom at the other students, to see if anyone had figured out that the Wuzzles lunchbox belonged to me.  A group of boys seated together pointed at the lunchboxes, whispered, and laughed.  Convinced they were talking about my Wuzzles lunchbox, I leaned out of my chair to get a better listen, so far that I fell out onto the floor, and said “I meant to do that” as I stood up and brushed off my new jeans.

At lunchtime I grabbed my lunchbox in the melee of students, tucked it under my arm with the face against my body, and shuffled along in the boys line to the cafetorium, a cross between a cafeteria and an auditorium.

I ate with my lunchbox face down.  I was sure that everyone was looking at me, and with envy I saw how freely they displayed their lunchboxes to the world.

When lunch was over I picked up my lunchbox and pressed the face against my torso as I had done walking in.  And that was my routine.

I wish there was some kind of dramatic denouement to this story, a moment where my lunchbox was revealed and I realized that it did not matter what was on my lunchbox, and some kid wearing a Voltron shirt started a slow clap, and everyone learned a valuable lesson that I would later write about in a college application.  But there wasn’t.  I don’t know if anyone cared or even noticed.  They never asked, and I never told.

In the fourth grade I started brown bagging my lunch. The Wuzzles lunchbox was thrown in the basement with my other lunchboxes, and eventually became part of the Earth’s crust.

0 thoughts on “Remember Lunchboxes?

  1. In Kindergarten, I had a red Snoopy lunchbox that matched my red Snoopy backpack.

    My first grader has a Transformers lunchbox, but it’s felt, or nylon, or whatever it is that lunchboxes are made out of these days. (The kind of material that squishes sandwiches when first grade bottoms sit on it.)

  2. oh i loved my lunch boxes! Holly Hobbie, Barbie, Wonder Woman, GI Joe.

    i bought a metal Hello Kitty one for my 4-year-old niece recently, the nostalgia took over and i thought it was the coolest gift. apparently, metal lunch boxes can kill kids these days because i was asked to replace it with a nylon one. we were so much tougher back then 😉

    1. Lunchboxes don’t kill people. People kill people.

      So did you start using the Hello Kitty lunchbox yourself? Or does the ban extend to the streets and train platforms and parks and such?

      We were much tougher back then. GI Joe would have never been caught carrying around a nylon lunchbox.

  3. That second to last paragraph has me laughing hard. The kid with a Voltron lunch box slow claps. College essay. Ah, gold my friend.

    Strange though, I can’t remember any of my lunchboxes! There had to be a Garfield one in there though. I love He-Man, but love snark and sarcasm more, even as a child.

    1. I thought you might like that one.
      Perhaps you’ve repressed memories of the lunchboxes. Was there a snarky cartoon hero from back in the day? There was a Snarf, but I don’t think he was the hero.

  4. hahaha I remember being SO jealous of my friend who had a NKOTB lunchbox. Come to think of it, I don’t remember what any of my lunchboxes were.. must not have been memorable.. Obviously, I wasn’t one of the cool kids. 😀

  5. Man, you have no idea how excited I got when I saw that Wuzzles lunchbox picture. I was a HUGE Wuzzles fan when I was a kid! I had a Care Bears lunchbox when I was in school. I don’t remember ever feeling self-conscious about it, though. I usually smuggled a Thunder Cat or two in there, though, so I guess that made it more “manly.”

    1. Yeah, it’s really too bad the show had a limited run. I think it was released simultaneously with the Gummi Bears, which had a highly successful run. I guess having a title that is also a gelatin-based candy is a big advantage in the ratings race.

  6. Jen and I were always part of the nylon lunch box club. My mom had it under good authority that they were more thermally insulated than the traditional plastic box. Oddly she refused to pack anything in our lunch box that could spoil between getting on the bus and lunchtime so the point was pretty much moot. Looking back, it does seem like making kids eat room temperature food is a health hazard. It’s an e-coli or salmonilla outbreak in the making.

    Jen did have a bitchin’ New Kids on the Block thermos though, and I spent many summer days jealous of it’s Neon glory. I probably had one too, but destroyed it in a fit of Megan-ness. It sounds totally possible.

    1. Don’t think I didn’t…

      It all happened during the intermission I took while giving all her female Barbies Sinead O’Conner haircuts. Muuuahahaha!

  7. I loved my Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox. My mom kept our old lunchboxes stored in a cabinet in the kitchen. One day, they all disappeared. I’ve seen copies of my lunchbox for sale at an antiques mall, but it just isn’t the same, you know? 🙂

  8. I had a Holly Hobby lunch box, which I just found rummaging around my mother’s basement a few weeks ago. It even still has the thermos. I’ve kept it to store extra buttons.

    I also had a really odd-ball lunch box. You know the Revolutionary War drummer boy/flutist/flag-bearer trio? I had a cartoon version of that painting…which I just googled and was called The Spirit of ’76, so that would mean I had that lunch box in kindergarten, making it my first one ever!

    And fyi, I still carry a lunch box. It’s plain blue, no thermos, but it’s the perfect size and I love it, and I bring that lunch box to work every day 🙂

    1. I just googled the Spririt of ’76, too, and I think I would’ve liked a lunchbox like that. There were so many different lunchboxes. It never occurred to me to have a lunchbox that did not help market an aspect of pop culture.

  9. I still have a few of my old lunch boxes at my moms. I had a Mermaid soft carry one and Beauty and the Beast hard plastic one. I was more shy and reserved at lunch and also remember hiding the picture because it might not have been as “cool” as other kids 😛 Then I got a new one after 4th grade, one that flipped open when you pressed the button on the side with plain blues, purples, and white solid colors. We always mixed and matched our thermos’ too. Ha ha Did you like take all this from an old journal entry you had or how on earth did you rewrite all of this from when you were young? Very cool post though!

    1. Thanks, Danielle. I remember the episode like it was yesterday. Thank you for the comment – it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one with lunchbox insecurity.

  10. Oh. My. GOD! Now I know what that thing I have is! I have a plush toy that is that bee/lion crossbreed. I have NEVER KNOWN! It is a Wuzzle! Thank you for having an embarrassing lunch box! My lion thing looks like that! I have never seen this show, and for all of my 23 years I have been like “What the hell is this thing? Where is my baby doll?” I think I used to pretend it was a carebear, but couldn’t convince myself, so my REAL carebear was more loved. Just checked with my mom – it was a gift, she doesn’t know what Wuzzles are either.

    Oh – and I currently have a Batman soft lunch box. A much better birthday gift then a Wuzzle. I used it for school a year ago – to keep my artifact cleaning/repair tools in. And now it holds my Tarot card decks and pirate stickers.

    1. I never thought my lunchbox would have helped solve a mystery, but you’re welcome. Glad you can close the case file on that one 🙂 Hopefully poor Bumblelion hasn’t been scarred too badly after 23 years of watching the Care Bear get all the love.

      1. I’m glad I can too! My world make so much more sense now. Bumblelion is his name? Ahh, I see. He is still around here somewhere, as I saw him the other day. Hopefully he hasn’t been scarred by my confusion, but Gentle Heart was definitely more loved, he used to come to camp with me all the time – he’s still got my name on his bum. 😛

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