Some call it a happy place, a fun place with a playground in Queens. Others call it a symbol of capitalism – America to the core, richly lodged in cities all over the world. For me, it is something quite different – McDonald’s means the spirit of giving.
It all starts with a group of giggling, gaggling eighth grade cheerleaders. Sporting pig tails, red pleated skirts, and white sweaters emblazoned with our brothers’ school initials, as we are chaperoned by a parent or two on a visit to a nearby Mcdonald's. Quarter pounders, fries, and shakes are irresistible. Boys play basketball, and girls like to celebrate victories and commiserate defeats.
On the first day I carry no money, not foreseeing the plans. Preparing for the next game I ask for $5, and my mother agrees, just this once. The third game rolls around, 7 feet of Chicago snow aground, and I am a little nervous to ask again. The bill is wedged tight in my pocket, as I breathe in the dank smell of the school gym. We watch the flood lights blur, as the score board sounds – the misshapen call of a lone steam ship on the St Lawrence. By the fourth game, I’m told that McDonald’s is getting a little expensive, and it’s not all that healthy. February leaves behind that dry, ice-cold bitterness. So sharp the stinging in our eyes and noses, we can almost taste it.
I keep joining my friends for lunch anyway, swearing that I’m not hungry at all. Game after game passes, our pompoms like snowballs rustling over the river. My best friend asks why I never eat anymore, and I shyly tell her the reason. I am fine with things, and I think she is, too. We jump into the car and enjoy everyone’s company at the table. People probably know anyway that it’s been hard at home since my dad passed away….
The season’s final falls on a Sunday, and we follow our ritual path to McDonald's. Remembering how our team won a three-point field goal from center court, I’m handed a generous tray. It’s perplexing, knowing that I have not paid for it. The girls all stand in a loose semicircle, smiling proof of their contributions. My face turns as bright as my skirt, and I barely manage to thank them. My hunger is gone because I can hardly manage to swallow.
Referencing our news display, McDonald’s Opens in the Soviet Union
, Tuesday, 1/31, in the Everett Cafe