Lunchboxes I Have Known and Loved

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Hmmm.... Did I put a name tag on mine?

One day, when I was about seven, I lost my lunchbox a few hours before lunch. This meant that not only was I without noontime sustenance, but that even if I did find something to eat, I was going to get a stomachache worrying about losing the lunchbox in the first place.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried on either front. When it was time to eat, my classmates generously contributed carefully culled articles from their lunchboxes. (For those of you who've ever considered packing prunes, asparagus or green beans in your kids' lunches, it's important to recognize that unless some poor kid forgets her lunch that day, every single item will wind up in the garbage can.) And, in a delightful turn of events, my beloved lunchbox turned up two weeks later when my bus driver noticed a mysterious and unpleasant scent emerging from under a seat.

Lesser lunchboxes might have been done in, or at the very least intimidated by such an experience. Not mine. Hours after my mom had peeled the greenish remains of my peanut-butter and honey sandwich from its metal bottom, my lunchbox was clean as a whistle, ready for action once again.

We were great partners, my "Pigs in Space" lunchbox and I. We not only collaborated to carry my sandwich, fruit and cupcake on a daily basis, we also smashed fire ants, threatened bullies, and banged a nice little chip into my front door the afternoon my mom had a late meeting and wasn't home right after school. When I got a bit older, I callously traded in my friend for a disposable brown paper bag — but I never forgot the satisfying sound my lunchbox made when I snapped it closed after eating, or the comforting, slightly synthetic piquancy the thermos infused into all of my beverages. (Even Tang. And Tang has an extremely strong orange flavor.)

These days, as far as I can tell, kids have pretty much given themselves over to the plastic brand of lunchboxes or perennial paper bags — and that seems like a real shame. Where is the thrill in dragging a plastic lunchbox down the slats of a wooden fence? What kind of temper tantrums can a kid throw if the only thing she has to hurl down a flight of stairs is a brown paper bag lunch?

I can't figure out if metal lunchboxes just went out of style, or if they discovered some terrible health risk associated with lunchbox rust. I only know that if you want one of the old beauties, you've got to visit antique stories, for Pete's sake. Or you're forced to dig around in those slightly moldy '70s-themed kitsch stores, where you're likely to pay close to $50 for a reasonable facsimile of a real lunchbox. On eBay, you've got a bit more variety: $450 for a "very rare, domed 'Jetsons' lunchbox," or 99 cents for a Hulk model.

After a little investigation, I found there are a few "Pigs in Space" lunchboxes on the auction block, and the going rate seems to be about $20. Maybe that's a fair price, but I don't think so. I still have my lunchbox, and I can't imagine letting it go for the price of two movie tickets. I will, however, consider an exchange. And if you've got a "Muppet Movie" lunchbox that's in good shape and harbor a penchant for swine in spacesuits, you may just be in luck.