By Jammy Linares ’19
You get on the lunch line, type in your number, and grab your food without looking up to see the person handing you your food. Lunch ladies are often not known by students.
Laoura Kaoukl is one of Midwood’s lunch ladies. Few know her by her name. Mrs. Kaoukl started working at Midwood two years ago.
Ms. Kaoukl grew up with her parents and her three brothers on Kefalonia, one of the seven Ionian Islands of Greece. She describes the island as very beautiful.
She said, “Growing up, my mother and I were like best friends. I would tell her everything.”
According to Ms. Kaoukl, her father was very strict. Her father would lock the front door when she came home past her curfew. She would have to beg her mom to open the window so that she could climb into her room.
“I had to be home by midnight, but instead I arrived at one in the morning,” she said. “My father would not open the door to let me into the house and my mother would not open the window to my bedroom, so I had to sleep on the roof.”
However, he was not strict with her all the time. She was “treated like a princess” often being spoiled, but that all changed once her father died. She worked hard for her earnings, never asking her parents for money. After her father died, she had to find a job. She got her first job at the age of 12, becoming a restaurant assistant manager, and working as a waitress. She had to work hard to sustain her family, yet her three brothers would often boss her around, telling her what she could or could not do.
Ms. Kaoukl was able to graduate high school, but did not attend college. She went to a gender-segregated school; one floor would be for all girls, and another floor would be all boys. The educational system in Greece is different from the one in America.
Ms. Kaoukl said, “Compared to the schooling in Greece, the schooling system here is like a luxury.” Students are not only required to bring lunch in Greece, but they also need to buy their own textbooks too.
Her dream was to become an actress, and instead of continuing studying, she met her husband. In 1992, Ms. Kaoukl married her husband, who is also Greek, and had a child. Her son, who is now 26 years old, was a troublesome boy growing up.
Laoura Kaoukl immigrated from Greece to the US with her kids and her husband 18 years ago.
“One day I want to go back to Greece to visit my mom’s and dad’s graves, and I also want to spread my daughter’s ashes,” said Ms. Kaoukl.
Ms. Kaoukl recently lost her 27-year-old daughter, Stephanie Kalos, to heart failure. Her daughter was an assistant teacher at a private daycare.
She does not want to return to Greece permanently because she has “created her life here.” She is willing to let her husband go by himself because she wants to stay here with her children, but sometimes her job is not easy.
“It’s hard when I see so many kids,” said Ms. Kaoukl, referring to the students she serves, while still mourning the death of her child. Everyday she thinks about Stephanie.
Despite her loss, Ms. Kaoukl, likes to cook outside the school lunchroom. She has recently started to work in a restaurant.
Her favorite type of food to cook is Greek food. She would cook Greek food for street fairs, birthdays, or any opportunity that presented itself. She also enjoys singing and dancing.
She currently has a green card and hopes to become a resident soon, but life is not always easy here.
“It is expensive trying to be an American,” said Ms. Kaoukl.