My parents went out for dinner every Friday night for as long as I can remember. We never had the same babysitter--we were bad, I think--but my parents always made sure they had somebody lined up for the following Friday. I suspect my mother would have accepted anyone from the grocery store cashier to the garbage man if it meant she and my dad could be alone for a few hours. It might sound weird to some people, but as a parent I completely understand. It's something I've always insisted on since we had Joey, even if it can't be every week. In that moment where we first sit down in a restaurant, I swear that for one beat the world stills and my entire body instantly relaxes. For a short time, I get to just be a person. Not a mom, not a jungle gym, not a referee or a dictionary or encyclopedia or a bad cop...or a maid. Just me.
My children pretend to be annoyed when Joe and I go out, just as I used to with my parents, but the truth is, we all know it's fun. The kids get McDonald's or Wendy's and a fun babysitter (and unlike my own mother, I went out and conducted extensive searches for the world's best babysitters--you know who you are!).
Of course, it's these Fast Food Fridays that may have sparked my insane addiction to burgers and fries. It started off just Fridays, but then when I got my driver's license I became obsessed with taking myself to the corner Burger King whenever possible. I bribed friends to come with me. The employees knew me; I think they had my name on file because I was such a regular that when my meal was wrong I actually called them on the phone and requested that they prepare me a new one I could pick up. It was less than a mile down the road and I apparently had no life, so it was really no problem to do it. By the time I started college, I kept what I called "EBK" money--Emergency Burger King--in the console of my car. I'd zoom off the Thruway and as I neared the intersection by my house I could either turn left or swerve into the right lane to turn into Burger King. I'll never forget the day I was about to swerve right and I saw the boarded-up windows. No notice. No newscasts. No personal phone calls despite my special file. Out of nowhere, my Burger King closed. I almost got in an accident, and felt a little weepy the rest of the way home (I also got into a little altercation while driving because I'd swerved into the right lane and then had to quickly get back to the left--you'd think people could see I was grieving).
This didn't make me give up my love for Fast Food, however. My mom always said I was a person who "rolled with the punches," so I quickly switched my loyalty to McDonald's. I became a Big Mac girl and learned to love the special sauce the way I'd once loved the ooey-gooey mayonnaise goodness of the Whopper. When I finally graduated from college and then grad school and moved into my own apartment, one of its greatest perks was that it was a mile from McDonald's. Major score.
I wasted no time in introducing Joe to this crazed addiction when we began dating. No point in spending energy on a person who can't accept all of you, right? He was shocked. I think lots of people probably love McDonald's food, and also say that they can't resist it. I think he thought I was one of those people. Until he saw me eat. Then he knew I might be part T-Rex.
The reason I'm thinking of all this is because I was watching my seven, almost eight, year-old son yesterday. I just can't understand when his arms and legs became so long and gangly. When I fold laundry and I'm yanking on a pair of jeans whose leg is caught and twisted inside a towel or one of Joe's giant shirts, I tug and tug and the leg is so long I figure they must be mine. They finally break free and I look down and they are size 8 slim: Joey's jeans. I'm dreading the day when his clothes are the same size as his father's.
It seems like only yesterday that I was standing in McDonald's with my brand new husband, in line to order, and Joe said, "Are you getting the usual?" and I took a deep breath, using the moment to actually look over the other menu items. I'd always wondered why they'd even sell anything but Big Macs, but suddenly, out of nowhere, I found myself saying, "I think I want McNuggets."
Joe's eyes widened. He took a half a step back, then came close again to lean down and stare into my eyes. He was unsmiling when he said, "You're pregnant, aren't you."
It was less than a week later that we found out I was. And now my little McNugget is gigantic and excited for babysitters and Friday nights and good books. I'm sure this might be the strangest story some of you have ever read, but I love that my life began in a way that fit me so well. Standing in McDonald's, ready to take a leap with something new.