Daddy’s Lunch Box

I don’t remember when it started, but I know I must have started it. Dad had one of those black tin lunch boxes that latched on the front, the top domed to hold a thermos in place underneath it. For some reason now floating off among the “things that were important and I noticed at the time but have since forgotten” realm, I wrote a limerick and placed it in that lunch box before he left one morning. I felt all sneaky and stealthy as I flipped open the metal clasps and opened it up. It smelled of coffee and pipe tobacco.  The sandwich Mom packed him was wrapped in waxed paper, a piece of pie in a triangular plastic container. I don’t remember what else. I had written a limerick – a style of poetry Dad introduced me to which involves a pretty specific rhyme scheme and syllable count – and I laid it on top of his lunch, closed the box, and ran giggling off back to my room.

When he got home that night, setting his box with a clunk on the counter, I slipped in and checked it. Sure enough! There was a limerick on a scrap of paper in Daddy’s signature block-printed handwriting. I swooped off to my room with it and went to work on the next installment. A tradition was born!

I wish I could remember how long we did that. I was in elementary and middle school. At some point during that time, Mac Davis had a variety show on TV. In it, he would ask his audience for made-up (the crazier the better) song titles. Strumming his guitar, he would, on the spot, improvise a four-line ditty on that topic. How I remember THIS, I don’t know, but one lady’s title was “Anchovy Ice Cream and Morning Sickness.” After “eww-ing” for a bit, Mac started to strum and sang: “My wife is a little bit pregnant/you can tell it by her thickness/she craves anchovy ice cream for breakfast/and I’m the one that gets morning sickness.”

Dad and I loved that segment, and it gave us a new idea. Again, I can’t remember who started it, but it was probably me. I put a title in the box. That night, I’d open the box and find the paper, now with a four-line poem on it using my title. Below that was another crazy title. So the next morning, Dad got my poem and his new crazy title. This went on for ages.

On special occasions, a longer, more thoughtful poem was in order — birthdays, Father’s Day, etc.

I have a couple of big boxes of treasured possessions. In it are elementary report cards, graduation tassles, birth announcements, obituaries, hand-made Mother’s Day cards, baby books, and a few little things I can’t remember the story behind, but they’ve been with me as long as I can remember. Also among those treasures is a rather formidible stack of poems — silly limericks, rhymes with crazy titles, and longer poems that still make me cry. I wish I still had the lunch box, too!

But the most important treasure is I still have the Dad. So in his honor, I offer the following:

We’ve had us some really good times
Some goofies or weirds, some sublimes
Due to fading recall
We can’t remember ’em all
But they’re safe in our hearts and our rhymes

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