Mama and the Leech

When I was in 9th grade in Lebanon, I had this friend named Ryan.

I’m not sure how we got close in the first place, but we just clicked one year. He and I weren’t friends for very long (I moved to Canada after 9th grade and I think he moved to the US) but we had a special bond that I’ll always remember.

This is a story that started one day during our morning recess period. Me and a few other guys would stand in our usual spot outside a classroom window. My mom packed me lunch every day: Two hearty sandwiches (one for each break), a drink, and an assortment of treats. We’d eat and hang out, as 14-year-olds are wont to do.

Ryan, who I was already friendly with, made a habit of coming over to me and asking if I had anything good. It became so routine that I’d smile when I saw him heading my way and took to affectionately calling him “The Leech”, a title he wore with pride. If anything, I usually did have “something good”, (see aforementioned treats).  I was always happy to spread the sugary goodness, and the guys were more than happy to partake. (I tended to spend mealtimes with the boys for some reason. The girls hung out…somewhere else?)

Somehow, the tradition of handing out candies and sweets to Ryan evolved into giving him my lunchtime sandwich. Every morning, I’d zip open my lunch bag and split my sandwiches among the two of us, and we’d stand there and eat. He never pressured me to do this, it kind of just happened. (I’m thinking maybe the first time he may have been hungry but either didn’t have money for the cafeteria, or wasn’t in the mood for their food). After that, giving him a full half my food for the day felt normal.

Well, my mom found out about my generosity (because I told her) and was a bit bemused by the whole thing. After all, the sandwiches were there to last me the whole day, so if they were both gone in the morning, what was I eating for lunch?

I wish I could say. I don’t even remember going hungry, and I know I never bought anything from the cafeteria. I think I just started eating half my sandwich in the first break and ate the second half later.

My mom, you guys, is a saint. Instead of telling me to stop giving him my food, she started packing him his own lunch. She’d never even met him, and that was her solution. I remember eating breakfast as she cut open fresh baguettes, filling them with cold cuts or cheeses or any assortment of spreads. If there were candy bars, she’d toss me an extra for him. She would joke, “Shoo, khalafto w nseeto la hal walad?” (What, did I give birth to then forget about this boy?) But the whole thing developed without any discussion, it just became normal.

Which is what I love about it.



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