It is concert time in Kidlet’s school. The annual production where all the little munchkins will do what they do best – wear cute as a button costumes, redden their already ruddy cheeks, sing like angels and fumble up their lines. Some will fall asleep on stage, many will itch and yawn, one may even bring a stage prop crashing down. For all their dramatic and singing prowess, there will be a sea of teary eyed parents, grand-parents and other sundry relatives sniffing into their handkerchiefs – wobbly handy cams clasped tight. But a more detailed update on that later. For now, I must focus on the dreary backstage work of putting together a sandwich.
Yes, you read that right: Sandwich. Or roti. Or stuffed paratha. With a side order of healthy dry fruits or cut apples. I am on an early morning schedule now. Kidlet, who typically goes to school at noon, now has to stumble out of bed at the crack of dawn (well almost!) and rush to school. Hours have been extended too. And the onus of preparing the all-important energy replenishing ‘dabba’ has fallen on, who else, but yours truly!
Let me be very honest with you. I am not one of those wonder Moms who cook up astonishingly finger licking desserts out of spinach. My range of break box options include: bread, bread and ..bread (White, brown and multigrain?). Ok, sometimes my cook feels sorry for the kid and makes stuffed parathas. I provide variety by tossing up between cheese, jam and sometimes even peanut butter as a filling. Pity, the school does not allow Nutella, otherwise that could have been another choice. In my defence, my daughter’s break box always comes back empty. I always scrupulously check car-pool kids’ boxes to see if they have finished up: and have to sheepishly admit at being pleased to see remnants of food choices that indicate a culinary variety far wider than mine. At least kidlet eats the two baby sandwich squares and three pieces of walnut I pack her – and cheese has calcium, ok? She likes the monotony, or so I would have liked myself to believe.
This was until, of course the early morning school started. I need to wake up really early nowadays – though I do it for purely selfish reasons. What could be worse that starting a day at 5 a.m? Starting a day at 5 a.m. without having the morning cup of tea in relative peace. Without my thyroid meds and tannin routine in the morning I am nowhere close to the Tata tea mom going gaga in the gardens! Anyhow, without much digression let me continue with the sandwich story.
So day one in the kitchen, still and dark outside, no urgencies pulling on my hemline, phone line or any other such tremendously distracting stuff. The best time to get a brainwave – and I got one! But really don’t hold your breath, I wont go all Masterchef on you. Some of you will even go oh-duh! But that’s fine. For me, in that defining moment of undisturbed clarity, I suddenly knew what I had to do with my daughter’s thus far monotonous sandwich – cut it into a shape!
I plunged my trusty Victrinox into the still warm crust of the cheesy conglomeration and carved out a three-petal flower. It went into the box, with the usual side order of cut apple. Kidlet was pretty banal in her review of my attempt though. “You ate the Sandwich? You liked the flower?”. ” Yes. Hmmm.”. But I did not give up. The next day it was a jam-sandwich butterfly – whiskers and all. “How was the Sandwich? Did you like the butterfly”.
“It wasn’t a butterfly. It was a shoe.”
Though I am guessing some squishing inside the box was to blame for the mistaken identity, I was stricken. Maybe I needed to nip my budding sandwich carver career in the bud. But then I looked at Kidlet’s face. She was not being judgmental. She was just telling me what she thought she had seen. And it was a shoe. And she had eaten it. The sandwich was our very own Rorschach jam blot. There could be no right or wrong answers! And hallelujah for that isn’t it?
Emboldened thus, I have continued my cutting and piecing together. Some days I get feedback not just from the kid, but also from her friends. “Aunty, how can the house not have a chimney”. Storybook illustrators please take note: thanks to you, kids living in Mumbai high rises know what a chimney is. And on a more serious note, parathas make better house cut-outs with chimneys and even doors that swing open and shut!
I even made a row of high rises. But they fell apart into something else. A cat without its pointy ears was obviously a better snowman. Sometimes I send a googly, like a simple diamond – and it got christened a spaceship. And today I sent an arrow. Just to see how far it goes!
These lunchbox conversations are becoming part of the routine. Very rarely are my creations identified correctly. And that’s the most fun part of it! No one seems to mind. Indeed sometimes there are multiple identities of a single piece of buttered bread. My ship, her anchor, her friend’s hat!
I am guessing my enterprising Victrinox and I can manage the show for some time longer. I shall resist being a cookie cutter sandwich-shaping mom for as long as I can. And when the concert is over, we will be back to ‘square’ one. And I must admit I will be glad for that. Though the kidlet and her friends shouldn’t be surprised if they find a sandwich shaped puzzle in her box, on some days.
Nidhi Dorairaj Bruce is a Freelance writer from Mumbai. With no formal education in Parenting, she has been getting on-the-job training ever since her daughter, affectionately referred to as ‘the kidlet’, arrived on the scene 5 years ago. On Twitter, you can connect with Nidhi @typewritermom