Abbey's Road: Experiencing a taste of middle school

Abbey spent the day before Thanksgiving break serving pie to middle schoolers
Abbey spent the day before Thanksgiving break serving pie to middle schoolers

Under extreme duress, I agreed to help serve slices of pumpkin pie to hundreds of ravenous middle schoolers the day before Thanksgiving break.

…OK fine, that’s not entirely accurate:

Out of a deep sense of guilt and obligation, I volunteered to serve slices of pumpkin pie to hundreds of ravenous middle schoolers after having failed at least three times to come through on vague promises made to an upstanding PTO member.


I admit it wasn’t my choice of assignment, but it beat PDA Patrol at the Valentine’s Dance (although I’m told teachers have that honor) and hey — pie!

So on Tuesday morning I washed my hair and donned my only clean sweater, reasoning that if Bookworm’s friends were to associate us, I should at least look and smell like I tried.

Clutching a grocery bag containing a can of Reddi-Wip and two pie servers already poking through the plastic, I meekly showed up at the middle school not sure what to expect on my first day of observing teens and pre-teens in their “natural habitat.”

I was stationed with the other volunteers behind a long, pie-laden table that served as a buffer between us and the hormonal masses. Watching them pour in through the cafeteria doors, I envisioned myself as the Jane Goodall of middle school, positioned in such a way as to unobtrusively observe the social conventions in a strange territory of which I was only vaguely familiar. I would win them over with my smile and food, I thought, ensuring mutual respect and a rare incognito glance into Bookworm’s daily school life.

Pumpkin pie on the day before Thanksgiving break at this particular school, as I understand it, is a tradition instituted by the building principal, who showed up at 10 a.m. in an elf hat and with three extra carving knives for slicing up the 40 mega-sized pies the PTO purchased for the event.

There were 60 cans of Reddi-Wip donated, and believe me when I say we were not stingy. Multiple kids were questioning whether there was even pumpkin under the fluffy mounds of white; meanwhile, the elfin principal announced that if anyone was opposed to pie, we could probably arrange a plate with only whipped cream. (It happened at least a dozen times.)

Abbey Roy
Abbey Roy

I am happy to report that my plan was largely successful.

It was a great morning, and the middle schoolers were gracious and polite. There was no throwing punches, no name-calling, no “Mean Girls” drama: Just, “Can I have that piece, please?’ and “Thank you!” or “I’ll have TONS of whipped cream!”

The unexpected highlight of my day was the lunch ladies, who stood behind the food line like bosses and helped more than half of those hungry kids to their lunches.

I ducked in beforehand to say hello and they were full of nice things to say about how they like their job.

One quit her position as a dental hygienist just to dish up tater tots and carrot sticks five days a week. For a while, both of them had kids who attended the school; now, even though their kids have moved on to high school, these ladies keep at it because they enjoy the atmosphere and interactions.

Both had loads of nice things to say about Bookworm (who packs her lunch on most days but has been known to indulge in a chicken bowl now and then). She likes to make conversation with them and say thank you, and this is something they enjoy and treasure.

You know, I think those lunch ladies — and others who serve our middle schoolers in various capacities — see something that many of us who have put out the dumpster fires of our middle school years and buried them in ash miss.

These are young people who are unwittingly stuck on a treacherous mountain road leading from childhood to adulthood. We’ve all been there. It’s bumpy and full of twists and turns and frankly could use some more road signs. But they’re in it for the long haul and trying to make the best of things, and rather than dwell on every stigma associated with middle school, we who have stayed the course can choose to come alongside them and cheer them on.

Like my PTO friend and the Elf Principal and those smiling lunch ladies who show up every day.

It was a great day in middle school, and if Bookworm lets me, I think I’ll be back.

Abbey Roy is a mom of three girls who make every day an adventure. She writes to maintain her sanity. You can probably reach her at, but responses are structured around bedtimes and weekends.

This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Serving pies to middle schoolers is an eye-opening experience