Updated: Feb 26
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Sometimes, there's a family story that just spans generations. I remember well my grandmother telling me the story of her being kicked out of a play in grade school because she couldn't stop laughing at a silly line. Then there was my sister's attempt at making tomato paste sauce "just like grandma's" only it was NOTHING like grandmas. We won't even discuss her pumpkin chiffon pies. She's an excellent cook, but those two attempts didn't go well.
There are many stories I've heard through the years, over and over, and still we laugh. Like the time my mother's uncle, who, on a picnic at Lake Ronkonkoma, put his shoes near the fire to dry and they burnt. What makes it funny is that all the cousins, my mom included, (all kids at the time) watched it happen and laughed their butts off. Her cousin was in his 70's and couldn't tell that story without laughing hysterically. Often, he was asked to tell it. We even have him telling it on video and being he passed a few years ago, it's a treasured possession.
So goes the story of my lunch "invention" that has lasted through the years, giving us much amusement.
Don't forget to check out my story The Burgers as well.
I went back to college to earn my Bachelor's Degree when I was 35, a single mother of two with a full time job. It was exhausting, but I loved it and excelled.
It was a private college here on Long Island with a weekend program for working adults. I transferred in with a good number of credits and earned enough credits at the college to then write for life experience.
School started on Saturdays and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and ran until 6:00 p.m. Being I was taking 3 classes each semester, I was there the whole day.
Writing for life experience was not an easy task. It's the equivalent of writing a thesis and must be peer reviewed by professionals in your field. If I remember correctly, it required four professionals after your professor reviewed it several times. It also required a letter from your employer and/or former employers stating that all you said in your paper was accurate and true and that you did have the actual experience. All of this was then filed with the state.
When you take the course, and write for life experience, the college advises you to take ONLY that course due to the workload. I generally took three classes each semester. But I did as they advised and took only that course when I was writing for credits for life experience.
It was hard and exhausting. There was reading material, tests and of course our own writing, which included handing in our drafts, editing and rewriting.
During my college years, I usually got about four hours of sleep a night. To say I was tired was an understatement. I lived on coffee (I could drink it back then) and I never missed anything with or for my kids, but my days consisted of work and my nights consisted of study, research and writing papers. Somehow, even with all that, I managed a social life and vacations. I insisted on vacations, therefore, I didn't take summer classes.
My college also required a thesis to obtain your Bachelor's Degree. So I knew there was no end in site. After the life experience course, I would be starting my thesis.
All of this required staying up until the wee hours of the morning. When I would get frustrated or bored, I'd take my mind off work by snooping around the internet. Sometimes I'd be writing a paper or doing homework while simultaneously chatting on sites about various topics.
One day, after being up studying for a test until 3 a.m., I rushed to school, arriving by 8:30 a.m., to take my test. Once I finished, I was able to leave the classroom, and, being I was the first student finished, I headed to lunch early, alone.
I usually ate with various classmates, but that day, I stumbled into the large cafeteria in a sleep-deprived stupor and was really hurting my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to eat. After taking that test, I couldn't think straight. At least I learned later that I aced it with a 98, the highest grade in the class of about 20.
I patiently awaited my turn on the long line of students whose classes ran differently than mine. Straining to focus, I read the menu above the young man's head who was working up front serving everyone. He was a friendly fellow, a weekday college student in his early 20's who worked at the college on weekends in a work-related program.
It was my turn. I looked into his young, smiling, expectant face. He waited. I said nothing. Then, finally, slowly, my voice came to me.
"How you doing?" he responded.
And then, the words came out, haltingly, as if I was on the verge of a major world-altering invention.
"You know what I want." I said. "Can you toast some white bread, butter it, maybe put on a few slices of cheese and melt it and, I don't know, a thin slice of tomato and one piece of lettuce?"
He stared at me. A dead stare. Would he ever reply? It seemed like an hour had passed. Then I watched as his lips curled and formed a huge smile. His eyes shined bright, his brows raised high and he looked me dead in the eye.
"In English," he said, "that would be called a grilled cheese,"
We both broke out into hysterical laughter. He chuckled the whole time he made my sandwich.
I was still laughing as I carried my tray to my seat. I sat alone that day, and giggled through every bite, ignoring the stares of fellow students who were probably warning one another to stay away from the crazy lady in Section D.
We didn't have classes every weekend. Most often there were two to three weeks between sessions. That was how we all had enough time to do homework, write papers, and study.
We went back two weeks after my "invention" to a fun, party-like atmosphere That day, in the very large cafeteria, there were various chefs representing different countries and they were serving ethnic foods as part of a diversity program.
The young guy who made my grilled cheese was now working as a "waiter" serving people what they had ordered from one of the stations around the room.
I took a seat with several friends and we discussed what foods we wanted to try. I had waitressed in a Greek Restaurant for a few years, my family owned an Italian restaurant and I waitressed in various restaurants throughout high school and college when I was in my early 20's, not to mention my travels, so I had tasted a lot of ethnic foods. I was especially fond of French and Indian.
The cute young "waiter" approached our table as we sat pondering and looked at me with yet another big grin.
"How was your two weeks?" he asked.
"It was busy, but good. How was yours?"
My friends fell silent. I knew what they were thinking. Was this young man flirting with me, a divorcee with two kids, 12 years older than he? I caught his wink. They did too and were now convinced of their theory. I knew better and gave him a slight grin.
"I'd like to suggest you try one of the Italian options. Order the round disc of dough, piled with cheese and red sauce and sometimes a meat of your choice," he said looking straight at me, his eyes twinkling.
"In English, that would be called a pizza," I told him, ignoring the confused faces of my friends.
Over samples of foods from several different nations, including a small slice of pizza from a chef from Italy, I told my friends of my invention the last time I ate in the cafeteria much to their amusement.
Hey, my brain was fried, I used it more than they did theirs. I got a 98, the next closest grade was an 80. That was my excuse and I was sticking with it. We all got a good laugh.
To this day, my family and I still giggle over my grilled cheese gaffe and I bet that cute guy, whose name I never did get, still does too.
Based on true events.
For another fun story, visit my blog post The Burgers.
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