When I was in elementary school, one of my best girlfriends had a mother who worked (rare in the 1960's) and a nanny/cook at home who packed her lunches. She had what seemed to me at the time the most incredible lunchbox meals, such as a thermos of tomato soup, a ham and cheese sandwich, a piece of fruit, a small carton of milk, and goldfish crackers. My other best girlfriend's mom was a stay at home mom who gave her a dollar a day to buy her lunch, and back then, the food at our school cafeteria was like eating at Luby's. We had Meatloaf Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Chicken Fried Steak Wednesdays, Fried Chicken or Corndog Thursdays, and Fish Stick Fridays. Each meal came with 2 kinds of veggies, plus mashed potatoes and gravy, and a fresh baked roll. You could get a small carton of milk or an iced tea and an ice cream with this meal and still have some of that dollar left over. Oh how I wanted to eat either of those lunches! I can still remember the smell of my grade school cafeteria. The lunchroom ladies baked those fresh rolls every morning, and the smell of them baking wafted through the entire school, making everyone hungry.
This situation was symptomatic of an over-arching issue of my childhood - I was hungry all the time. My mom didn't like to shop, cook, or even leave the house. She started sending me to the grocery store when I was 5 or 6 - I rode my bike a few blocks, clutching rumpled dollar bills in my hand - bought what she told me to buy, and brought it home in my bicycle basket. Most of the time, I was instructed to buy cut up chicken parts, coca-cola, and candy bars. Once in a awhile it was a can of coffee, a loaf of bread, or a carton of half and half. The list varied little in all the early years of my life. When my parents divorced ( I was 19 years old and in college) one of the barbs my dad slung at my mother was that he "was tired of eating nothing but chicken every d@mn single day".
Throughout my childhood, I was small and thin, at the bottom of the growth curves. Tiny for my age - always on the front row of school pictures (they lined us up by size). I often fell asleep at school in the afternoons (probably bc the sugar rush had faded by then) which my mom said was the reason she held me back in kindergarten for a year, because I was so small and still needed a nap every day. It never occurred to her that eating a diet of sugar toast for breakfast, and a candy bar for lunch might be part of the problem. Teachers chided me routinely for the sleeping, even though I made good grades. I was the kid who hung around after school, playing at everyone else's home at mealtime, hoping to be invited to stay for dinner, and scrounge off other family's meals. I loved eating things at other peoples homes : spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, pork chops, mac n cheese, hamburger helper, corn, hotdogs, baked potatoes, pepper steak, la choi chinese food from a can, fried chicken, hamburgers, tuna casserole. 1960's kid food. As soon as I turned 16, I went out and got myself a job (my parents had gotten me my drivers' license early, so I could drive my little sister around - again, bc my mom didn't want to leave the house), and I started eating out every single day. I lied about my work hours, left 30 min early, and grabbed a meal at some place en route.
A childhood spent hungry leaves you hungry for the rest of your life. Whether the hunger is for food, or attention, or love, it can never be fully abated. Naturally, I struggle with weight issues today because I can never feel not hungry.