Day 38: Introducing Tiny.

As so often happens – either by design or happenstance – my work week this semester is unbalanced, top-heavy. Every Monday and Wednesday, I’m at work long enough that I must pack both lunch and dinner.  When I’m finished with Wednesday evening’s class, I feel like I’m done with the majority of my work. I still work or study on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but they’re “lunch-only” days, and for me, that’s a light load.

I’ve long had the habit of preparing my lunches (and sometimes dinners) the night before. I have done this every school night for years. My lunchbox is always with me when I go to campus; it feels like an extension of my arm sometimes. I’ve tried various types of carriers over the years until I found a little blue lunchbox that suited me perfectly. I used it daily for about three years and was starting to get a little ratty. Then the latch gave up the ghost and couldn’t be repaired.

I tried for months to find a suitable replacement, but nothing seemed quite right.

Until I found this:

Day 38 - lunchboxIt’s a vintage lunchbox, made in the good ole U.S. of A. It’s a bit rusty on the hinges and the handle, but it’s got a solid heft, there are no dents, the seams are straight, and the fasteners are perfectly aligned and tightly secured. I like to imagine it in the hands of a large, burly construction worker who fills it with two or three ham or bologna sandwiches, a couple of Twinkies, and the apple that his wife threw in. In his honor, I’ve named my lunchbox Tiny.

It even has a place for my Thermos:

Day 38 - ThermosThe lunchbox is perfect. It’s big enough for a day’s worth of food and coffee but isn’t so heavy or cumbersome that it becomes a hassle to carry or store. It’s instantly recognizable as mine in the staff refrigerator, so no one will mess with it or mistake it for their own as they rush home at the end of the day. It’s apparently also a conversation piece and I’ve been asked about it by many people as I go through my day. (Oh, and those bags in there are called Lunch Skins – reusable sandwich and snack bags – and they’re awesome.)

But it’s even more than that. My father worked as a mechanic and every day, he went off to work carrying a box almost identical to this in silver instead of black. His Thermos was bigger and he had to fashion some homemade brackets to attach it to his lunchbox. He never left without that Thermos. Forgetting lunch was one thing, but leaving coffee behind was a catastrophe. I know this all too well, as this was one of the many things I inherited from my father.

He retired when I was barely a teenager, but all through my childhood, I remember that lunchbox and Thermos sitting ready the night before, and coming home with him each afternoon to be washed so it could be repacked later that evening. When he didn’t need the lunchbox anymore, it was put away and I don’t know what happened to it, but I still have his Thermos. It’s too big for my lunchbox and it’s not practical for everyday use, but I won’t let it go. I do use it for road trips, but for my own coffee needs, I bought a smaller, more modern Thermos that I could fit into Tiny. Past and present, working together.

I know I could buy a nice thermal bag that would fit as much food or keep things chilled and neatly packed. It would probably have a strap so it would leave my hands free for opening my car or the door to the buildings I need to enter. It would be easy to wash, it wouldn’t rust, and it would probably come in pretty colors.

These things don’t matter to me. I already have what I need. Together, my vintage lunchbox and my modern Thermos not only keep me fed and energized throughout my long days, but they also serve as a constant reminder of fond memories. My father has been gone for just over 6 years now, but he can still keep me company every day. In lunchbox form.


11 comments on “Day 38: Introducing Tiny.

  1. margaret21 says:

    That’s wonderful. Nourishment of the body and the soul, all in one!

  2. vintagekaren says:

    I’ll admit I have a weakness for vintage stuff and this lunch box is perfect! And I love that it’s a touchstone to the wonderful memories of your dad.

    • limr says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one with a weakness for vintage! I had tried one that was new and made to look vintage, but it just wasn’t the same. Plus it was totally flimsy and kept opening, and I wasn’t even keeping my Thermos in it. I had to haunt my favorite junk shops until I found just the right one. I just love it. 🙂

  3. Sherron says:

    My dad was also a mechanic and had this exact same lunch box. I think his thermos was red plaid with a red plastic lid. What a trip down memory lane!

    • limr says:

      My dad’s was silver, like his lunchbox. My father probably would have broken the plastic lid on a plaid one. In fact, I think he did break the plastic cap on his silver one! He was pretty rough on that poor Thermos.

  4. avocetarts says:

    I really like those–and they can be quite iconic! I want one now!

    • limr says:

      They sell replicas on, but the quality just isn’t to par. I say start hitting the flea markets and tag sales come spring! 🙂

  5. Annie says:

    My dad was in the fuel business. He drove a truck and also worked at a station. He wore the blue uniform and carried his food in a Gott cooler. To this day the smell of grease and gasoline makes me think of Dad. Funny that I love those smells! 🙂
    I love the image of your dad going off to work and the memories you have of the lunchbox.

    • limr says:

      Me too! Those smells make me instantly 10 years old again whenever I walk into a garage or auto parts store (the old mom and pop ones anyone, not the new shiny corporate stores.) My dad didn’t have a uniform but he always wore green work clothes. Even after he retired, he still wore those green pants because he continued to do work for people privately. He was pretty much the only person in the area who could fix not only cars but big machinery. He fixed the well drillers, the flatbed trucks, the backhoes…if it was large and broken and within 50 miles, it ended up in our back yard 🙂

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