In 1986, I was working as an editor and writer of an in-house company newsletter. It was a very small company, and I would often eat lunch by myself. I would use the brown paper bag that I used for my lunch, to write on.
1986: The Era Of Writing On My Brown Paper Lunch Bag
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In 1986, I was working as the editor and writer for a company newsletter for a medical supply company in northeastern New Jersey. The newsletter was mailed out to the entire nation wide sales force. I would have about 300 copies printed for each issue.
At the time, I was saving every penny that I could save to start my own town weekly newspaper. During the time that I worked for the medical supply company, I also taught Creative Writing classes at an adult school program.
The medical supply company that I worked for, did not have a lot of employees in the home office. They had a little section of their warehouse set off to be the company lunch room. It had to be the ugliest company lunch room that I ever saw. It had three little card tables set up. There were no vending machines at all.
I would bring my lunch every day. I pretty much ate lunch alone every day. I rather enjoyed the solace. While I was eating my lunch I would carefully tear my brown lunch bag, along the edges. Then, use the brown paper bag to write a little story on. It sounds crazy, but it was a special time of my life.
Here is one of the very stories that I wrote on my brown lunch bag back on March 4th of 1986.
Remembering Grandpa Mabey
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In the low murmuring mumble of jumbled words in humming conversation, he sat alone in the midst of the crowded cafeteria. Richard contemplated the white, empty styrafoam cup. Gone was the lemon flavored hot tea. And, alas, there was still 40 minutes left to his lunch hour.
A close-up of the very brown paper bag that I wrote this story on, back on March 4th of 1986.
The words flowed onto the old paper bag, like droplets of rain water filling the wooded stream, headed for the buoyant green-blue sea. A scene came to the young man’s mind, somehow it had been lost and buried for so long. But, now it had returned to haunt him like a strange, wonderful, eerie wisp of a soft voice.
So vivid was the memory, in Richard’s mind’s eye that he wondered how he had ever forgotten it in the first place. In the lost fiber of shadows of the elm, the maple, and the pine; the young man had returned. He remembered the solemn song of the cool, crisp babbling brook. There was a certain joy to the song of the creek. But in the melody of the creek, could be heard the stir of the loneliness of the creek’s moving waters.
Sitting in the work cafeteria, Richard remembered the old oak tree. It was by no means an ordinary oak tree. For the old, towering oak stood strong and proud by the bank of the creek. The limbs and branches of this dear old oak were even thicker than the trunks of the other trees of the forest.
This oak tree; this tall, towering oak was the very tree that Richard had sat beneath when he was a young boy, at the tender age of eight. Richard’s grandfather, Watson Mabey often accompanied the boy, in their hikes along the forest path that led to the old Morris Canal.
A picture of Grandpa Mabey walking the forest path that led to the old Morris Canal.
Grandpa would often tell his grandson that this was the very oak tree that he climbed high to the very top, with his brother, Earl. Grandpa would look out to the babbling brook and tell his grandson, “I was just about your age, the first time that Earl and I climbed this here old oak tree.”
There, in the office cafeteria, Richard suddenly remembered his grandfather’s hands. They were calloused hands. Grandpa had big, square hands with gnarly knuckles that were sadly filled with arthritis. Richard remembered the array of small brown spots that covered the backs of both of Grandpa’s hands. It was all set in indelible ink in Richard’s mind. It was all coming back to the young man as he remembered the gnarled veins that crept across the back of Grandpa’s hands. For these were the hands of a hard working man.
My paternal grandparents; Watson and Bertha Mabey.
It all seemed so lost. The young man suddenly felt a sheet of sadness envelop him as he remembered his endearing, late grandfather. The years had passed too fast. The young man longed to take just one more walk down to the old canal with his beloved grandfather. It was in that very moment that the realization came to Richard; somehow and someway he needed to play tribute to his dear Grandpa. He did not know how he would do it, but he knew that it was truly something that he must someday do.
And from that little story written in a small office cafeteria, I first thought of the idea of putting my Grandpa Mabey’s story into the form of a stage play. I was blessed to see that dream come true.