The Good Tray

It has been a long time since I have been there, but I was thinking of eating lunch at my grade school’s cafeteria. Our Lady of Mercy in Dayton, Ohio.

Our lunches were extraordinarily good, I always thought. There were one or two dishes that I never much cared for. Spanish Rice. And Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese. (I loved the Grilled Cheese, but I’ve never been too keen on Tomato Soup. It seems like such a terrible thing to do, to otherwise perfectly good, unsuspecting tomatoes. )

But the rest of the lunches. They were delicious. There were all the usual suspects like Spaghetti. Cheeseburgers. Pizza. Even the things like the Casseroles du Jour were inventively tasty. The spread of food went on and on. Veggies and Fruit each day. Butter Bread or Peanut Butter Bread. As much as you cared to eat. But that was the key phrase; you had to eat what you took.

I am sure the food was ultimately yummy. Yet, looking back, I am wondering how much of this had to do with Anticipation. We were always aware of the lunch hour. We knew it approached at the same time, every day. We looked to the clocks with excitement and suspense. We’d go through Menu-Worry.

And then they called us by grade. I can’t remember if it went from youngest to oldest, or the other way. But every day was the same. And when your class was called, it was like winning the Lottery. The Nuns would herd us down to the hall outside of the cafeteria, and then we would wait. Standing in line. In silence. In the aroma. Like Pavlov’s Dog, our palettes were dripping with the expectation.

As soon as our little bodies were physically through the door of the cafeteria, we were allowed to talk. Quietly. This too, was part of the great fun. Talking to our friends who were still, technically, out in the hallway. A great thing which always made me happy. Stepping into a place of talk-freedom.

We would grab our trays, and the rest, was good eats.

I wish I could remember the cook’s name. Mrs. Mecklenberg, or something. She was always very busy, but kind. And the Soup-Kitchen-Nazi-Lady who took our money. Her name was Mrs. Osterday, I think. I feared her.

That was a much different time. But, the anticipation of the event, foreshadowing things in our lives to come. I think we all, as adults, have certain parts of our day that we look forward to.

Our morning coffee, or the walk with the dog. Time in the garden, or working the crossword puzzle. Picking up the kids, OR, perhaps, dropping them off. Our favorite little snack at 3 p.m., or is it 9 at night? Curling up in the corner with a favorite book. Sitting quietly, reflecting. Praying. Whatever it is, I think that most of us, have a thing. Or maybe not?

If we don’t have a “something,” I think we all need one. In this world which huffs, and puffs, and swirls, and bites. The times, in great fluctuation, with those gripping, hair-raising news stories, every other minute. It all spins and surges around us.

And when it does, it brushes up against us, leaving its mark.
I think we need to afford ourselves those little times, which help us to mend. Those “things” which brighten our spirits, and give our souls a rest.
That crossing over the threshold, and into that cafeteria, when you can finally have your own small freedom and be happy for the abundance which awaits.


Riches are not from an abundance of worldly good, but from a contented mind. — Unknown


What you seek is also seeking you. — Rumi


Keep your best wishes, close to your heart and watch what happens.
― Tony DeLiso