In retrospect, I agree with my parents’ decision to persistently ignore their children’s demands for novelty lunchboxes and other such impractical things. However, as a five-year-old girl I felt this was a terrible injustice.
My two brothers and I were notorious for losing our prized belongings; the more highly we valued an item, the more likely it was to disappear. It must have been for this reason that the giant Flora Buttery tub that I was made to use as a lunchbox and was desperate to lose simply could not be lost.
Each day I would arrive at school and place my Flora tub in its assigned cubby between Stephen’s and Amy’s. Stephen had a futuristic, transparent, green lunchbox with compartments and a matching water bottle that clipped neatly on to the side. Amy had one of those briefcase-style ones with a top handle; it was bright red and blue and had the maniacally smiling faces of Ant and Dec exploding through the abstract, mid-1990s designs on each side.
Both were enviable boxes and were representative of the standard of lunch containers owned by my classmates.
Quite apart from the fact that the plastic tub was pretty flimsy and that there was nothing cool about Flora to a bunch of five-year-olds, the very idea that a vast quantity of faux-butter once occupied the container was off-putting. I was convinced that my lunch was somehow contaminated by the tub’s original contents.
One lunchtime I went to retrieve my Flora tub as usual, the silently mocking faces of Ant and Dec leering up at me and my inferior lunchbox from the neighbouring cubby. I returned to my table to sit with my little friends. My tub was feeling heavier than normal. When I opened the lid to inspect its contents with the kind of anticipation that only accompanies the promise of food, I was horror-stricken. There was no sandwich. No apple. No Capri-Sun. No Club Milk. Just masses of pasty, pale-yellow, pretend-butter staring blankly back at me. Disappointment. Disbelief. Embarrassment. Hunger.
And the following week, a brand new, real lunchbox.
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