How McDonald’s Saved Christmas 2010

In light of all the excitement and family fun we had on our recent marathon length road trip I thought I would share with you my thoughts on the initial road trip with our first born that started it all. Without further adieu: 

I suppose you could say I have a real “Love/Hate” relationship with McDonalds.

I remember a time back in highschool when I couldn’t go a day without a McDonald’s fix. At noon hour 10 of my closest friends and I would all pile into someone’s ridiculously tiny car and head to McDonald’s drive thru. We’d each order a Kids’ Meal and dine on the pint sized burgers and fries. Of course it was a Kids’ Meal. We were of course watching our figures and complexions with fierce determination to be THE skinniest with THE most beautiful dew-kissed skin. Somehow we had it ingrained that a Kids’ size helping of grease and salt wouldn’t sabotage our aim of perfection. Those were the days. We’d then spend the remaining noon hour “cruising” or terrorizing the streets as only a boatload of teenaged girls in a ridiculously small car can., tunes cranked, sunglasses on, with a belly full of greasy fries and a head full of crazy dreams.

Then Grade 12 arrived and I decided to become a vegetarian. It was a moral decision I suppose, but, oh, how terribly hip, deep and modern! I vowed to never eat meat again and sealed my fate with one last McDonald’s cheeseburger. Kind of an odd “last meal” wouldn’t you say? I ‘spose you could consider that going out with a bang.

Well “never ever” in teenaged years is the equivalent of 2 years in reality. In my second year of university the novelty had worn off and I was ready to join the ranks of carnivores again. I started out slow, a bit of chicken here, a skiff of pig scabs (aka Bacon Bits) here. But I just never worked up the gumption to return to McDonalds.

Fast forward a few more years. I’m an adult now. Nay, a MOM! I still haven’t set foot in a Mickey D’s since the highschool days. I avoided the place like the plague, wrinkling up my nose every time someone suggested we stop in for a bite to eat. “I don’t eat at Ronnie Ratburger!” I would say with indignation as if someone had asked me to consume a pile of fermented roadkill rather than set foot in the world’s most popular burger joint.

Well, that all changed today.

Today is Christmas Eve. A holy, blessed and beautiful day. A day to be filled with family, friends, carols, apple cider, butter tarts and the smell of the pine Christmas tree. A day to reflect and say “AMEN, SISTER!” to the Blessed Virgin for birthing J.C. sans epidural in substandard conditions under the curious and watchful eye of a variety of species. So how did I end up riding shotgun in a Saturn Vue (also known as the “Soccer Mom Mobile”) packed to the brim with suitcases, gifts and a very busy 14 month old boy? Well, this year we are celebrating Christmas with my inlaws, which is wonderful in all respects aside from the torturous 9 hour drive.

So here we are beetling down the highway, weaving in and out of traffic like Santa and Rudolph were late for a special delivery. The festive spirit was heightened even more with my continual shrieking “HOLY SHIT! SLOW DOWN AND LIVE!!” to my dear husband as he drove bee-sting speed from Alberta to Saskatchewan like he was commandeering a one horse opened sleigh. There was nothing remotely Christmasy about the drive, although I did exclaim “Sweet Jesus” a time or two (referring only to the sweet innocent baby Lord, of course) and I’m sure the non-stop praying probably counted as well.

Midway through the hellish drive we come to a city. This city is a beautiful sight on any long journey. You see, this city means “Stop. Rest. Eat.” on our family roadtrips. This is a godsend because any toddler strapped into a carseat for more than 5 hours straight starts to go a little squirrelly and experiment with his vocal range. There have been times that this little sweetheart will hit just the right pitch that will make your eye start to twitch and you have to catch yourself from veering off of the road into the next power pole. Upon arriving in this city we are all more than ready for a pitstop. We typically stop at this really nice little diner and have a real sit down meal, the kind your Mom would make, in the event that you have a mother who likes cooking.

Tonight we pull into the city and the blasted diner is closed in light of this holy, blessed holiday. Damn them and their holiday spirit! Now what? Our lil Peanut is reaching a new octave and I fear the windshield will shatter if we don’t get him the hell out of his seat. My beloved soulmate and I scanned the horizon for something, ANYTHING. Alas! A Wendy’s! We pull in there to see that they closed an hour earlier for the holidays. What next? I was beginning to consider screaming and kicking my legs in unison to dear little Peanut.

That is when it dawned on us.

We looked to the east and there she was, glowing like that star of Bethlehem must have all those years ago. The golden arches. Now I have been on a Ronnie Ratburger fast since the mid-nineties, but Peanut’s vocal exercises were enough to break even a hardened terrorists spirit, so I begrudgingly agreed to cross the saturated fat threshold once more and show my face to my estranged friend, Ronald McDonald. Our relationship has been a tumultuous one since we first met back when I was but a wee girl myself. I felt a bit sheepish to have been away so long, but I knew good old Ronnie would take me back.

We released Peanut from the evil clutches of his carseat and sauntered inside. My! How McDonald’s has changed! They have a FREAKING FIREPLACE!! Now THAT is festive. The décor is quite updated, no more garish yellows and reds. Subtle neutrals and warm woods greet you under the inviting and ever-so-flattering lighting. If I hadn’t seen the golden arches for myself I would have sworn we were in a fancy “sitdown” place. I’ll be damned.

BUT WAIT!!! What is this we see? The entire front half of this luxurious restaurant has been designated for KIDS! KIDS!!! Can you believe it! I shit you not. Most restaurants meet you at the door with a sneer and an upturned nose…“You have leprosy? Come on in! Table for how many?? A highchair you say? Oh, I’m afraid we can’t serve you. We don’t take kids”. If you can get past the door you are likely going to spend the next 40 minutes inhaling your food, dabbing a wet wipe in futility at the fancy ornate carpeting and shooting apologetic glances to the other patrons as Junior does his best velocoraptor impersonation. But a place that welcomes, nay, EMBRACES kids!!

Peanut and I ventured into the Kids’ area while my dearly beloved fetched us sustenance. The Kids’ area was dominated by a looming network of giant gerbil-esque tunnels in vibrant primary colours. The tunnels had a lustrous sheen, likely the result of years worth of nugget-sauce-laden little fingers probing their every surface. Peanut let out a gleeful yip and shuffled over to the play area. A giant sign stated the rules: “Children from 3-10 years old only. No shoes. You must wear socks. Purchase socks from the front counter if needed.” This enlightened me to several newfound truths. A) I was allowing a not quite 1.5 year old play on the equipment. He wasn’t even half old enough. Is that the same as letting a 9 year old go to the bar? If so, I am the worst mother in the world and I committed such a terrible crime on Christmas Eve of all days. B) He was wearing little shoes. Double whammy. I am going straight to hell. C) Hmmmm, do I want to be eating food from the same counter that sells socks to barefoot wandering children?

Being the rebel that I am I threw caution to the wind and let Peanut continue playing. There was only one other family in the restaurant at the time. They seemed to be there for the same reason we were. Lil Peanut scampered and explored the giant plastic fortress with sparkling curiosity. I couldn’t bear to pull him away. At one point an employee approached and I felt my hackles bristling, ready to go Mama Bear on this poor, unsuspecting fast food employee if he tried to ruin my baby’s fun on Christmas Eve. Thankfully he was just coming closer to smile and wave at wee Peanut. I sighed in relief and vowed to work on simmering down the Mama Bear response. Peanut continued to explore, and it occurred to me that we may just be up shit creek should he venture into one of the tunnels and was somehow lost in the belly of the beast. I was fully prepared to dive in if needed. I’d have the fire department on standby should he somehow manage to scale the three stories worth of tunnels and take a wrong turn the giant see-thru bubble window.

My true love then appeared with tray in hand and our little family settled down to eat. Another glorious discovery was an entire fleet of highchairs resting against one wall. We wouldn’t have to battle another family for the one and only highchair, or sit in some other little kids’ orange pop explosion in an icky sticky chair. Praise be little infant Jesus! This Christmas Eve just kept getting better and better.

We dug into our meal. I was pleasantly surprised to see that not much has changed in the 10 years since last put a McDonald’s French fry past my lips. They are still 98% sodium, 2% trans fats and 100% goodness. Wee Peanut chowed down on his delicious nuggets and we had our own Christmas miracle. We showed him the little plastic container of dipping sauce. “Seeeeee, like this” and I would exaggerate the motion of dipping the chicken into the tiny vat of sauce. He looked up at me with those wise-beyond-his-years-eyes, grabbed the sauce container and dunked his own nugget for the first time. A true Christmas miracle. We all smiled and celebrated.

It was at that moment that I felt the feeling seeping into my veins. That warm, Christmasy feeling that feels like home. I savoured every moment as lil Peanut rubbed ketchup on his forehead, pursed his little lips around the straw of his milk and patted his sweet-n-sour-sauced fingers on his hair. This is what Christmas is all about. Its all about being with family, sharing in the bountiful feast and love, sweet love. Its surprising what you’ll find in your local McDonalds! I smiled to myself and noted how festive and Christmasy the ketchup around Peanut’s mouth and left earlobe looked.

And so, dear friends, I wish you all the very best this Christmas season. May you surround your heart with the love of family and friends, even if you are sitting in a swivel chair in the shape of the Hamburglar. God Bless McDonalds.

And to the dear Virgin Mary, thanks for taking one for the team. You rock.
Happy Birthday Baby Jesus. We love you man.

Amen.
December 24, 2006 11:23 pm.

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