I didn’t mean to go to McDonald’s again.
It started ten days ago. On a Monday after yoga class with Aaron at a performance, I was driving home with Clara. It was late—almost 7:30 p.m.—and I didn’t know what we were going to have for dinner. So, for the first time in, I don’t know, ten years, I stopped for fast food on the way home for dinner.
It was amazing. We snacked on some french fries on the way home and after we stripped our coats and let the dogs out, we snuggled up to the table, Clara with her three Chicken Selects and me with my Classic Grilled Chicken Sandwich. The tomato on my sandwich was very juicy. My chicken was only subtly processed, but Clara’s looked pretty real. She loved it. We ate from our cardboard cartons and kicked our feet against our high-back chairs in glee. Then . . . we just threw the cartons away. That was it. Not a single dish to wash.
Tonight’s accidental trip to McDonald’s was less amazing but still satisfying; that’s the difference, I guess, between doing something after ten years and after ten days. Aaron is in his last week of Annie, and after spending most of the day at home, I’m always itching to get out for awhile.
I wonder if my experience tonight is at all representative of what it’s like to be a single mom, pregnant with a two-year-old on her hip. Initially, Clara and I walked into Buckets, our favorite family restaurant, but we sat for fifteen minutes while the waitresses passed out menus and drinks to at least three other tables that walked in after us. It’s like they didn’t see us. Meanwhile, Clara is growing weary of crayons—she is, in fact, eating them, and my feelings are a tad hurt. So, we get our coats back on and walk out, comforted only by an onlooking couple muttering, “The service is terrible here tonight.”
The thing about McDonald’s is it has counters. I know I will walk up and get my meal in an orderly fashion and I am not subject to the prejudices of a waiting staff (“stay away from the mom and toddler—you’ll be sweeping cracker crumbs and picking up crayons for a lucky 15%” is what I must have looked like to the them). Still, we pulled up to the counter, the only customers in sight, and three young girls with headsets stood chatting in front of us. We’re at the registers. One girl says, “Who’s got front counter?” Another answers, “I guess no one.” What?!? Can I please just not fix dinner tonight? Clara’s climbing the nearby high chairs. A minute or so passes and I’m wondering if we should just go home and eat canned beans. Then, one of the girls approaches, and looking right at me, she says, “Well, I guess someone has to take her order.”
Now, here’s the thing. I don’t even have fantasies about what I might have said had I not been tongue-tied in the moment. I stare at her for a second and get our usual chicken spread. Clara and I head to a booth in a corner and have a lovely little Friday night together. It’s no fun being dismissed or ignored, but more than anything, I wanted to have good night with my daughter. I could tell that the only way that wasn’t going to happen was if I snapped and asked to speak to managers or started wagging my index finger around. I think some people can do this without their heart rate skyrocketing, but I knew that getting upset would just get me upset.
Besides, Clara smiled at me all night long.
This is what the third request of “say cheese” looks like.
Earlier this week, it would not stop snowing. A math professor at the college with a bunch of missing teeth and head full of white frizzy hair said that we haven’t had this much snow since 1992.
I’ve heard that some people are getting on their roofs with snow-blowers. I’m not sure this is part of our rental agreement but you can see it’s starting to pile up.
Last night Clara pointed at a sheet we used over a month ago to do some finger painting. Then she pointed at the finger paints on top of the fridge while tapping her pointer fingers together. Such a deliberate message deserved a spontaneous finger painting extravaganza on the floor with Dad.
Finally, here’s me trying to get a pregnant shot with Clara. I really do look pregnant these days but this shirt isn’t accentuating the belly like it should.