How an orange became a symbol of this dad's love for his daughter

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 Photo: Meg Sullivan

Sometimes an orange isn't just an orange. For this father and daughter, a simple peeled orange has been a symbol of love and care for all the years she has been at school, and now, times are changing.

On her last day of high school, 18-year-old Meg Sullivan found a light-hearted note in her lunchbox from her dad Tom, who has been packing her lunch – and peeling her oranges – since she was a little girl.

Meg found an unpeeled orange in her lunchbox, along with printed instructions on how to peel an orange, plus a hand-written note from her dad that simply said, "It's time baby girl."

Underneath, he drew a crying face.

Meg shared the poignant note on Twitter with the caption, "My dad has been peeling oranges for my lunch since kindergarten and on my last day of high school I got this instead."

Meg told Today she found the note cute at first, but then the meaning really started to sink in: it was the end of an era. "I thought it was funny. It didn't hit me it was sad until I stared at it for a while.

"I felt like the note was like turning the chapter in my childhood and bringing me toward my new independent life as an adult," she added.

Tom is under no illusion that Meg needs anyone to peel an orange for her as she prepares to head off to college, but he thought the note would be a sweet and symbolic gesture.

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"It was mostly fun, but absolutely, it was, this is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, where it's going to be different," said Tom.

"It represents all of the things she's going to need to be doing on her own."

Meg said that as she peeled her own orange on that last day of school, she realised the gravity of the situation.

"It's been so long, so many years he's made my lunches," she said.

"Now he can't go to college with me, and I'll just be on my own. I was kind of sad. I'll be sad to leave."

Meg is incredibly close with her father, having mostly lived with him after her parents' divorce.

"He goes above and beyond and does special things for me to make me know that I'm loved," she said.

Tom says preparing his daughter's lunches was never just about the food.

"I could have put money on her lunch account," he said.

"But it's one of those little things I thought was important, that she knows somebody's taking the time to care for her."

Tom says Meg is a big part of his life, and he will miss her terribly when she goes away to college.

"I don't worry about her at all," he said.

"She's extremely smart and she's talented and she's driven ... Now she's going to peel her own oranges, and she'll peel them great."

I think I got some of that orange juice in my eye.