We had a lunch meeting at work a couple of weeks ago and when the catering department delivered our lunch there was a can of Tab mixed in with the sodas. I couldn't believe it. A can of Tab was such a blast from the past for me.
When I was young, my mom worked at the school. She worked in the lunch room. It was hard labor, and a very physically demanding job. She was up and off to work very early in the morning to prepare the food for the day, and she was always waiting for me to come home before I got off of the school bus. I don't think I realized when I was younger how much I truly appreciated this. I took it for granted that she was always there. Each day I came home to a clean house, and to my mom who had just spent a long day at work and was still working when I walked through the front door at home. She was washing the clothes or hanging them on the line out back, or preparing dinner, which by the way was always served at 5 p.m. She went above and beyond. She did it all. Now that I am a mom I realize how hard she really did work. I realize the sacrifices that she made, and how important my time was with her. I'm a working mom now, and every day I carry guilt with me. It's my constant companion. The pace of my life and my circumstances don't allow me to accomplish all that she did, but as much as I struggle with the way things are and as much as I long for a time when I can be the mother that she was, at least I have a consolation prize. My children spend time with her now just the way that I did when I was young. They watch her work, and they stand by her side and help her to do it. They learn from her and they get a taste of what my childhood was like, and for now that brings me a bit of peace.
One of my favorite things to think back on in my childhood is the summers that I spent with my mom. Being a lunch lady meant that she was off for the summer, but not really. During the summer when I was young my mom took a job at the school helping to care for the grounds. We spent all summer long together outside the school caring for the fresh green grass. Her job specifically was to turn the sprinklers on and rotate them. We rode together on a four wheeler with a box of sprinklers and made sure that every blade was watered and taken care of. We were outside together under the sun driving through the mist of the sprinklers and laughing as we did it. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with her, and I remember how important she made me feel by allowing me to help. I know how my mom feels about taking care of the yard. I know where it ranks on her list of priorities and she let me help. It was a big deal, and still to this day I haven't forgotten how much I enjoyed it and how elevated I felt because she allowed me to share it with her. It's something I now try hard to do with my own kids.
The other part of this experience with my mother that I distinctly remember was when we took our breaks. We would retreat from the sun and step inside of the school to cool off and give our bodies a break. Whenever we did this we shared Wheat Thin crackers and my mom always drank an ice cold Tab. The can was sweaty in her hand and I remember how it always looked so refreshing to her. Like it hit the spot just right. Each time she would drink it I would always ask for a taste and each time my tongue would quickly curl up as the soda soaked into it. It was awful. I never liked it. Never. No matter how many times I tried it, but when I saw this can a couple of weeks ago I couldn't help but smile. Even though I never liked it myself, it reminds me of my mom. That pink can reminds me of a time in my life that was wonderful. It takes me back in time, and unlocks details of a time with my mom that I had filed away in my mind. I hope there are things in my children's lives that trigger these kinds of memories for them too. I hope they are filing away the things they are doing with their grandmas while I'm at work. I hope they know how special their time with both of them is. I hope they cherish it forever, and every now and then I hope that something reminds them of me too. I hope they remember that even though their mom spent lots of time away from them between work and other obligations that she didn't always want to, and that her time with them was more precious than anything else she ever did. I hope that someday when they are grown and gone that they have memories like this one I have of my own mom to make them smile because this is how I remember my mom. Mowing the lawn at the crack of dawn under my bedroom window. Hanging the laundry outside every Saturday morning. Making dinners for us so we could all sit down and share what happened in our day, and last but not least drinking Tab. I think this is how my kids will remember my mom too because she is still doing all of these things (minus drinking the Tab). I'm so grateful this single can of soda was delivered to my work meeting. It was a meeting worth going to just for this.