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What My Daughter Had for Lunch

Is she getting along with her roommate? Are her classes challenging, but not too? Is she looking forward to our visit as much as we are?
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If you really love someone, you want to know what she ate for lunch or dinner without you.

That little gem is from Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and it was on my mind in the weeks leading up to our daughter's departure for college. I'd practically made a ceremony out of asking Katie what she'd had for lunch every day, and I'd miss doing that in person.

There would be ways of finding out, I knew. But I wouldn't be inches away from her when I did. Nothing in the way of electronic communication could take the place of being in the same room with her, watching sunlight stream in through a window and catch her hair just so -- or having her kiss me on the forehead before she left for play practice or dinner with friends.

In those first few weeks without her at home, I didn't think too much about what she was having for lunch. I was consumed with other things. Is she getting along with her roommate? Are her classes challenging, but not too? Is she looking forward to our visit as much as we are?

So imagine my surprise and delight when -- back in New York City this spring to fetch her for the summer -- she sat me down in front of her computer to open a file she'd created just for me. There it was, what she had for lunch. Every day!

It took a few seconds to sink in, but as long as I live I'll never forget how touched I was. She'll never forget my tears -- which had been, she says, the goal.

Katie lived in the same house in the same small town for 18 years. I couldn't figure out how, with everything else she faced as a new student at NYU and new resident of Manhattan, she'd remembered to do this Every Single Day. But she had. And what a window into her world!

I was struck by how relatively healthful her choices were. She didn't deprive herself of desserts -- far from it -- but almost every meal also featured a fruit or vegetable or both.

I was struck by how much personality she packed into a random entry. "Some kind of chicken substance," she'd write. Or, "Two cookies and a slice of apple pie. #NoRegrets."

She'd discovered she loved cherry tomatoes -- after insisting in all the time I'd known her she hated them -- and I got to see when that changed: "I don't know where your real daughter is," she wrote. "I'm sorry."

When she presented the file she told me she'd recorded each meal almost as soon as she finished, so I was confused by this: "Either a turkey or ham sandwich." I kept reading -- and learned that had baffled her, too: "I really don't remember, and it was like half an hour ago."

Reading it made me hungry. Then I'd see an entry that began: "Jalapeño popcorn, Jell-O..." Not hungry anymore!

I noticed patterns -- what she had a lot of, then apparently tired of.

I read with glee her accounts of lunches I'd served her while she was home on Christmas break or we'd bought her when my husband and I visited.

And I smiled when she admitted to letting off steam with a "huge-ass amount of pasta with seafood sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and Pepsi because SPRING BREAK BITCHES!"

I hadn't remembered how much I loved knowing what Katie had for lunch. But there it is.

Thanks, kiddo!