An evening at Villano’s

By Billie Johnson

I’m on a diet. Sort of. I have visions of last fall’s jeans, but haven’t quite visualized how I’m going to get back into them. I spent an inordinate amount of money on fruits, vegetables, and protein powder this week, and followed it up with a trip to Wednesday Farmer’s Market.  I took my two six and nine year old buddies that I write about now and then. They were eager to join me and I suspect it’s because they hoped for puddles in the parking lot after the day’s rain.

I procured more vegetables through the drizzle, and the boys asked if we could go to the new Villano’s on Main Street for dinner. They love to say it, or sing it rather, with a long lingering “lan” that rolls right into the “o”. I hesitated. Diet. Jeans. Pizza. Aromas.

“Sure, Boys. Let’s go to Villaaano’s.”  I’ll have a salad.

The little bistro is only two blocks from the Old Town Pavilion, so we walked. Their eyes were focused on puddles and my nose was focused on Villano’s.  I could smell the Italian sauces half way and began the internal bargaining. Surely, the boys will need me to eat their crusts. Maybe just one slice. Maybe my own small pizza. And, maybe Holt Arena is open late and I could sneak in and run stairs for an hour afterward. I ordered a small salad and stared inappropriately at everyone else’s plates. I did have to step in and finish the crusts, so my eyes were eventually diverted to our own table.

The boys’ mom was running before-school errands in peace while we dined, and she called just as we got home. She found some snazzy lunch boxes on sale. The choices were black, blue and purple. The eldest’s favorite color these days is purple. Their mom asked me if she should (A) get him the purple one, (B) tell him the choices and let him choose what would most likely be purple, or (C) get him black or blue in hopes to prevent any teasing because she fears purple might be perceived as a girl’s color.

What? Purple? A girl’s color? Since when? I’m usually up to date on gender norms because I’ve been inadvertently breaking them since I was these kids’ ages, but really? I had no idea about the potential for purple or teasing.  Nonetheless, I suggested (B).  Let him choose.

As I listed his color choices, his shout of “PURPLE!” echoed through the house and scared the dogs.

When their mom got home with the canvas lunchboxes, she might as well have been Santa himself. The purple lover grabbed his new carrier and squeezed it in glee. He then said to us both, “And ya know, people might tease me because it’s purple, but I like purple, and I will just tell them that you shouldn’t tease people for that because you can like whatever color you like.” Okay then.

This little guy is as (un)prepared as any kid for the upcoming school year and the social challenges that will come. If you’re reading this and you have kids going to school, perhaps you could talk to them about not teasing others for the color of their lunchboxes. Or their haircuts. Or their clothes. Or their church. Or their lack of one. Or for any reason at all really.

I was teased constantly as a kid for all of those and more.  I realized young that I was going to get taunted for just about anything, so I decided to freely embrace the things that brought me joy. My mom was so good at encouraging me, and I saw that same kind of encouragement in this lunchbox delivery. Not all kids are this lucky.

I wouldn’t think so much dialogue could ensue around a lunchbox, but we all talked another 10 minutes or so about social dynamics of the third grade, mold prevention, meal possibilities, and perks of this particular design. When I unzipped it and showed him the extra compartment, he squealed, “For leftovers! Like pizza from Villano’s!”

Poor kid. He’s excited and equipped to face his peers with his purple lunchbox but has no idea that as long as I’m on a “diet” there will be no leftovers after an evening at Villano’s.

Billie Johnson of Pocatello holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree from Idaho State University. She works as an engineer, is an avid community volunteer, and maintains a blog about her adventures in a cow suit at