(Working draft written on an iPhone SE while on MARTA. -sD)
I grew up in a very comfortable home. The only child of an amazing single mother, I am lucky to have such a loving surrounding. Between my mom, my grandparents, and my friends, I had a positive environment to thrive. I won’t go deep into my childhood and my crushing fears that nobody liked me, I instead want to highlight my childhood symbol of wealth, Ziploc bags.
My mom and I would frequently made my lunch in our small duplex kitchen. I don’t remember much about our sequencing, but I vividly remember the sandwich and snack bags. They came in a small cardboard box, bags folded over, with a tear strip of bag ties floating somewhere in the mix. We would carefully fish out that strip of ties and put them next to the box, most likely on top of other bag ties. We had a very inclusive drawer of bag ties, blue, brown, red, green, some thick, some thin, some used, others too flimsy to hold a bag together (note to self, this needs to be my Shel Ailverstein book). We would fill a bag with a full sandwich and tuck and fold the bag over the end of the bread. It was simple, no tie needed. When it came to chips, carrots, or anything loose, we went for the bag ties to secure everything. All of this was tossed in a paper bag with a piece of blue painters tape across the top. I was cool, I had the blue tape.
Come lunch time all the kids would break out their lunches. Some grabbed a chalupa, others and bowl of pizza, a group of us grabbed a milk and brought out our lunch. As we chatted about basketball, TMNT, or SBTB I looked at all the lunches, especially those with Ziploc bags. Those kids were rich! They had Oreos in a Ziploc bag. Since I did all the shopping with my mom and frequently ran into the Stop-N-Go to pay for a half gallon of milk to get by, I knew how much this all costed. I was impressed by these kids and occasionally, a friend would let me eat their final Oreo or Dorito. I realized that when they handed me their bag, that I would be responsible for throwing it away. I didn’t throw it away, I kept it, stashing Ziploc bags in my pocket.
I took these bags home and washed them without my mom knowing. I wanted to put my snacks in a “Red and Blue makes Purple” zip bag. I wasn’t trying to fake being rich, I just wanted to feel the ease of preparation in the morning and to hear the crack of the two sides pulling apart when I opened the bag. I did this throughout elementary, middle, and a bit in high school. When I got older I worked for an allowance by mowing lawns and cleaning pools, which allowed me to buy the expensive ZipLoc bags.
Today I still look at ZipLoc bags in a weird way. I make enough money to buy them, but I hate using them. Same with paper towels, those with money had Brawny, we had old wash clothes and rags. With a background in industrial design and a strong opinion on sustainable practices, the items that once were my symbol of wealth are now a symbol of careless convenience and slick advertising campaigns. The storage solutions for my family now revolve around things that can be washed, easily recycled, and have a long life. As I send my daughter off to first grade with a bento box full of natural food, I wonder how the kids at her table will look at her. How will her perception of the “haves and have-nots” be influenced by the decisions I’ve made because of my youth? Will I grow old and realize that the bento boxes I gave her through school influenced her as much as ZipLoc bags influenced mine?