Origin Story

I was twelve years old and I had a calling card and an imaginary idea of City Life that I'd read about in the Baby-Sitters' Club books.


I'd emerged from an Egyptian tomb in the Field Museum of Science. I was on a field trip to Chicago with my middle school art club. We saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, and then we stopped at the museum snack bar for lunch.


I already had a mythology about museum snack bars (all I did as a child was read and draw) – in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I'd read about the snack bar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as experienced by glamourous runways Claudia and Jamie.


This snack bar in Chicago offered sandwiches and probably salads, proper lunch foods, but nothing that I wanted to eat that day. I was a picky eater. Instead I chose a bag of gourmet potato chips and a fountain Coke.


You know how food tastes better after you've spent hours at the beach in the sun, working up an appetite? Food also tastes better when you're an awkward middle-schooler making an unconventional choice all your own, in a big city a thousand miles away from home. In that snack-bar lunch, I could taste adulthood: how you could decide to live where you wanted, and then you could go to the museum anytime, not just when someone else arranged it for you.