I didn't find this lunchbox - it found me. Walking down towards the ocean, in San Francisco's Outer Sunset district, I found a free-box outside of an organic food co-op. The sign over the box read, "Everything here is free for the taking - recycle, reuse, enjoy!" The free-box contained mostly old, broken toys - lots of Matchbox cars with wheels missing, random Lego bricks, Pokemon cards. Under these, though, lay a small, metal lunchbox. About half the size of a standard lunchbox. The theme was Batman, and it seems to have been part of some card collector set: collect all the new Batman cards, and keep them in this handy, mini lunchbox. I fell in love. The perfect canvas had landed in my lap.
My mother was an extraordinary woman. Funny, smart, opinionated, loving, fiercely loyal, loud, wise, bossy. Some people found her to be a little bit scary, at times. She did not mince words. She had a fiery temper. She had a heart as big as all of Brooklyn, and was extremely generous. On the other hand, Brooklyn and the Caribbean both coursed through her veins: she knew how to stand up for herself and her loved ones, hold a grudge, tell someone off in two languages, haggle a salesman down to the lowest price, and make her opinion known. I always loved her for her style of parenting, for letting me, as a kid, know that my own actions, and the decisions I made, were of consequence. I never felt like she was controlling what I did, but saying, "Do what you will, but life is all about living with the choices you make. The ball is in your court." I loved her for this. And, really, I liked her so much. I don't just mean love. Every kid loves their mother, in some way, I suppose. I liked her. She was fun to be with. We made each other laugh. She enjoyed motherhood, and she enjoyed developing real friendship with her children. When I was a kid, she loved to play with me. When I became a young woman, she loved to get up early on Sunday morning and drink coffee with me, before anyone else was awake. Years later, when I was living half a world away, she loved talking on the phone with me, and exchanging care packages by mail. And she never did anything small or half-assed. A perfect example:
During one of our long phone conversations, I mentioned how much I missed American peanut butter. The peanut butter in New Zealand, I explained, just didn't taste right. I'd kill for just a slice of bread with Jif. A week later, a large box was left on my doorstep by the mail man. Instead of having a meter stamp, the box was covered in $1 postage stamps. Front, back, top, bottom...the box was covered in postage stamps. I laughed, cut open the box and found inside two one-gallon jars of Jif peanut butter. Industrial-sized. Enough to keep me in peanut butter for well over a year. I immediately phoned her, and we shared a laugh over the madness of the just over 100 stamps she'd stuck on the box, on a whim, because she thought it would be funny, and the massive jars of peanut butter. It was so typical of her, to do something in such a big way. Largesse applied to every aspect of her life. She wasn't just generous, she also loomed large. Her laugh was big. Her voice was big. Her personality was huge. When she entered a room, she filled it up. To me, she was a giant. The single most important person in my life - then, now, forever.
The irony lies in that my mother was all of 4' 11" tall. People who knew her find this difficult to believe. Even people who knew her for years -people who worked along side her - can't believe this is true. A giant in so many ways yet, physically, so very small. Short enough that her feet never touched the ground on a NYC bus. Being a superhero has nothing to do with height.
When I found this little lunchbox, the phrase "tiny, but mighty" popped into my head, and I knew this was meant to be.