In the final drill, Grace and I reviewed once again how she would go to the cafeteria with her classmates and eat her nice lunch. Well, that was the hope.
I took the girls over to the bus stop while Laurent stayed behind in an effort to delimit the chances of boo-hooing once the bus came. There was general excitement among the parents and siblings gathered for this important letting-go moment. Instead of just waving to the kids and sniffling, almost every parent had some sort of tech device with which to capture this fundamental rite of passage: Cell phones were jabbed out into the air for picture taking; someone had a laptop and was making a short movie of the departure.
I took the old-school route and waved and tried to swallow down the lump in my throat. All I could think about was calling my mother and telling her all about it. She passed on two weeks after we returned from China and never got to meet her new, much-anticipated granddaughter.
The house seemed unusually quiet and empty when I got back inside, but I had a lot of work to do so the time passed relatively quickly – though I must admit I wondered a time or two about the homemade lunches with notes tucked inside.
There was a good bit of excitement in the afternoon when the bus was due back at 3. The dog and I took up our position at the intersection and were ready when the big yellow bus appeared on our street.
I could see Grace waving from the darkened window. Then here they came, hand in hand across the street, and Grace looked vexed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked tentatively.
Grace sighed, “Well, I don’t know how this happened, but she didn’t eat her lunch. She went through the line and got a hamburger instead!”
How was this possible? She didn’t have any money with her, I thought stupidly. But the obsession with hamburgers is strong with Madeleine, and when she smells a grilled patty, even of the institutional variety, she has to act.
Grace, of course, was appalled by the impropriety of it all. We got inside and I tried to explain to Madeleine that she was to eat the Hello Kitty lunch, and please not to get into the line again. I tried to show her the school menu and explain that when there was another hamburger day, she could buy her lunch.