bento for the heart

Life got better as I started kindergarten. I would carry my own lunch box, and be shuttled back and forth between school and home. I was secure in the company of supervising adults and children of my own age, not having to find solace in bananas alone—anymore. In primary school, I joined a different classroom for each grade, seemingly mid-term. I don’t think I ever got into the rhythm of back-to-school groove or out-for-summer fever. Mom moved me in and out of schools, whenever our homes sold and we needed to relocate to our next abode.

Days when we had no food to make lunch with, mom would deliver bento to me at school during nap time after lunch. Never mind that I had to semi-starve through lunch hour while everyone else ate. And while others napped, I would swallow every bite with tears, alternating between sadness and joy, until the last bite. There were days when the tears filled me, and I would have to take home the leftover bento for dinner.

I made bento for mom before we had caregivers. I don’t think she would have remembered, or associated bento lunches with a feeling of bitter-sweetness like I do. Growing up, I knew mom took on the manly duties to care for us, and I knew in my heart that she would never abandon me. Nevertheless, fear of abandonment was the first struggle in my relationship with others.


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