I never used to go to Grab ’n Go. I always had a good chunk of time around noon in my freshman schedule to sit down in either dining hall and share a meal with newfound friends. After over a year in a similar lunch rotation, I learned there was a crevice hidden somewhere within both halls dubbed the “Grab ’n Go” station. The one within North especially intrigued me. This was a place, my friends and I gossiped, for those who did not have so timely a schedule as to designate an hour to finding new food groups, for those unlucky souls without the chance to mix soft drinks that perhaps God never intended to bring together.

But one friend busted that myth.

Sure, she had time to lavish in lunch. But instead, out of her own free will she went the Grab ’n Go route five days out of seven. She would come back to our room and tell me about the adventures she had had inside that same small station. She would boast about the hard-boiled eggs, pb&j wraps, and veggie cups with hummus she had acquired. More often than not, though, she told me about the two ladies who lived, moved, and had their jovial beings behind the counter: Laneese and Sherri, the dynamic mother-daughter duo. This was one of the reasons why my friend chose to Grab ’n Go—because Laneese and Sherri made it a priority to stop the students and say hello before they would be off and running. This was one of the reasons, too, why I began frequenting North Dining Hall’s Grab ’n Go. I had the pleasure last week of stopping and chatting for a bit with the two ladies who make mornings there worthwhile.

Laneese grew up in Chicago. Before her family moved to the city, however, her mother’s family lived in the South Bend area. Laneese told the Rover, “My mom lived here. Her dad was the first black trainer for the Notre Dame football program.” She smiled. “But not many people know about that.”

Laneese spent 27 years in the city with her immediate family of five siblings. She went through the Chicago public school system before moving to the South Bend area to which her previous two generations were so tied. There, she received her GED and associate degree. After completing formal education, Laneese worked for the School Board. She later worked multiple jobs in a factory and was hired for Notre Dame Food Services.

When asked about which job was her favorite, Laneese said, “This one. I just love being around the students and working during a time that is both busy and more convenient for me.” While answering the question, Laneese heard Sherri helping and chatting with a student behind her. Laneese added to her answer, “Being with my daughter is nice too.”

On a typical day, Laneese covers the early morning to afternoon shift, which overlaps with Sherri’s morning to late afternoon shift. When Laneese is off, she enjoys reading, cooking, and occasionally going to casino nights. (Laneese’s specialty is tofu, but she failed to disclose the secret. Stay posted for a potential future food article.) Her favorite thing to do once she is home, though, is to be with her family.

I asked whether Laneese had any other children besides Sherri. She opened her eyes wide, “Oh yeah,” she and Sherri laughed, “I have nine.”

She said them all in order. With that many children bopping around, I was curious how Laneese kept everyone’s names in order! Laneese quickly responded, “It’s funny you asked—I have nicknames for each one of them. There’s Main, Ya Ya, Pook (that’s Sherri’s), Lil’ Mama, Nu Nu, Lackaloo, Bigum and Nook (my twins), and Bean.”

I imagined it was easier to see all nine when they were living at home, but Laneese still assured me, “My family gets together all the time.” Both her children and grandchildren “find their way” to Laneese’s home.

I asked what her grandchildren like to do with grandma around. “They come to dance.” Curious yet again, I asked how that activity ever came to be a part of the babysitting routine. “I used to dance—modern, jazz, tap, you name it—until I was about 30. My little girls picked it up, and Sherri passed it on to her little ones, too.” Sherri popped in and added, “My one-year-old twins can dance already!”

After more than a healthy dose of laughs, I asked Laneese to tell the Rover a valuable lesson she has learned. She paused and said, “Be yourself. Don’t try to please everybody, because you know they might find something wrong with you. Just treat them how you want to be treated.”

Finally, I asked for a piece of advice she would like to share with the readers of the Rover. “Do what you came here to do. You can’t do that if you pretend to be somebody other than yourself. Four years come and go so fast; I hear that from my students all the time. So all this hard work you’re doing right now, one day that’s going to pay off.” She added, “And if you ever needs someone to talk to, if you’re lonely or miss home, I’m here.”

Being crunched for lunchtime can lead to blessings in disguise. The visit to Laneese is one every student should make, whether or not you get the sandwich of your dreams. Not only did Sherri and Laneese help me choose my own Grab ’n Go, they sent me through the exit in brighter spirits than when I had entered.

Tierney Vrdolyak is a junior studying PLS, theology, and business economics. She enjoys singing, wearing socks, and crafting knockout posters for campus events. Contact her at tvrdolya@nd.edu.