Artist's Lane: Brown bag special


By Betty Slade

PREVIEW Columnist

Being served from a brown paper bag has taken on new meaning if you’ve dined out recently. What once stored collectibles or hid a “forty” from view now wets the visual appetite by its mere presence.

Not big enough to house linens or fancy dinnerware, the paper bag has become synonymous with providing immediacy of need. In today’s environment, that could be anything from a drive-up burger to five-star fare. Yet, we don’t fully know what it is that we appreciate until we consume the contents therein.

Every Sunday night for 10 years, our family has come together to enjoy a weekly event, Sunday night family dinner. If we didn’t plan on a time to meet, we might not ever see each other.

Our son cooks city, I cook country. One of our daughters cooks soccer mom, the other, aisle 7. It is amazing how everything comes together and just at the right time. But, it’s not the menu that appetizes, but the camaraderie we share as we sit and laugh, and loosen our belts. 

A recent table conversation ranged from plowing snow to replacing the hot water heater. Then, as if pulling back the wax paper to reveal the ultimate dessert, our middle daughter made the big announcement. Her and her husband had rented a large RV so we could all go on a summer vacation. 

The plan? Thirteen of us will camp our way from the southwest to the pacific northwest. We excitedly called our grandson in Arizona and our eldest daughter and her family in California to share the big reveal. 

“We are going to brown bag it as we drive from state to state. It will be a perpetual picnic outing full of fun and surprises.” 

Everyone was on board except our son, “Precious.” He said he would rather walk then be cooped up in a playpen on wheels for two weeks. I thought the idea would be a blast; “Precious” said he thought his head would explode. 

I guess he missed the part about visual appetite — seeing the best of the Rockies as we sit cheek to cheek. I am certain we will have a wonderful time. We always do. Sure, the thought of stepping into an RV and losing your independence and privacy can be a little too much in-your-face family. But the memories and stories we will be able to share after the fact are like those hidden brown bag treasures we didn’t know we had. 

It is probably the mother and grandmother in me. I get excited about having three generations all moving together from one place to another. And why not? We have done it before. 

When our son-in-law retired from the Coast Guard, the whole family went to Virginia to celebrate. We packed up him, one of our daughters and their two children to live life interstate style. Two vehicles, one camper, six weeks and 2,000 miles later, and we’d seen the U.S. from every pit and picture stop from the East Coast to the San Juan Mountains. 

We still refer to that trip as the best time ever. Peanut butter and jelly and bologna sandwiches by day, hamburgers and hot dogs by night. The soup du jour wasn’t the appeal, but the time spent together as family. After all, what else matters?

Final brushstroke: I can’t even count the number of brown bag lunches that I’ve had in the last year. Some were simple, some were a gourmet feast. All satisfied and nourished and gave meaning to being fulfilled. Isn’t that what it’s all about? So, we will swap our four walls for those on wheels. The best part of that picnic: experiencing life as it happens, one treasured moment at a time. 

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