I grew up as the youngest child in a family with 6 children. School day mornings were a flurry of activity. There were shower schedules, doors banging, clothes borrowing, lost homework and the constant din of the older kids' radios playing the local AM WFIL and later, the Philly Morning Zoo radio show on WMMR. The kitchen, however, I remember being as organized as a Naval galley. Mom would rule that kitchen in her Vanity Fair bathrobe like a galley chief. The kitchen counter was always neatly lined up with glasses of orange juice, vitamins, breakfast offerings (remember Cream of Wheat and Ralston?) and a long line of brown bag lunches ready to grab on the way out the door.
Now, I'm the mom in my own kitchen. It's calmer and quieter as I only have two kids. The din comes from The Today Show on the kitchen TV. My robe is fuzzy pink and from Costco. I serve juice, chewable vitamins, eggs and frozen waffles. I pack my kids' lunches and line them up on the counter much like she did and I carry on her unique tradition of communication via the lunch bag.
From kindergarten through high school, if I had a banana in my lunch, it had a message from Mom written right on it with ball point pen; a banana-gram. It was Mom's little way of touching base. A welcome thing in the jungle that is the school cafeteria. My oldest, who just started middle school this year, groaned at the beginning of the school year that I was going to continue to write on her bananas. I know in her heart she loves it and the groaning was just a touch of her newfound middle school bravado.
I asked Mom the other day where this tradition started. Her emailed reply was:
Tina, I think I actually started coloring on the white napkins; you know, the napkins that had a flower embossed in the corner. I wanted to send a message. I don't know if I accidently found out that markings stayed on a banana skin. At first I would just draw a heart, a pumpkin or XOXO. I know I started about the time that I had 4 teenagers, I was always trying to communicate and stay in touch by having something to talk about ever so trivial. Nothing real exciting, but that's how I remember it. Love, Mom
So I share with you this "recipe" for lunch box banana-grams. It's a simple tradition that my brothers and sisters, all six of us, fondly remember and still pass on to our kids/grandkids today. Thanks Mom!
When I taught elementary school, I would occasionally use banana-grams as part of a lesson. I remember writing examples of cause and effect from Curious George books on bananas. One child would get a banana with a cause and another would get a banana with the coordinating effect. They would walk around the room to find their match, then enjoy their bananas while listening to a Curious George story.
I'm a room parent now in my child's class. Our school has committed to taking steps toward healthier eating at school. When we have a holiday celebration in class, we ask for a regular snack and a healthy snack. Some refer to it as the "fun" snack and the healthy snack, but healthy can be fun too! I thought it would be clever to use the banana-gram idea as a Valentine's Day Party healthy snack!
Valentine Party Banana-Gram Treats:
For each child, you'll need a:
- paper plate
- plastic knife
- toothpick or plastic fork
- small cup of strawberry yogurt
On each banana use a ball point pen to write a personalized conversation heart style message, joke or riddle for each child. The children will love reading their own special messages. Then they can cut up their own banana into slices and dip them in the strawberry yogurt. I think they'll go bananas for it!!