Monday, April 22, 2013

#152. or, A Happy Meal

 I had stopped for a quick lunch by myself the other day, and she caught my eye right off the bat.

 You couldn't help but be drawn to her, with her blonde hair and the arms of her glasses, the same bright shade of pink as the outfit she was wearing. She was sitting 2 booths ahead of me and I was watching her between the couple that had come in and sat down between us.

  The couple, who sat with their backs to me, were young. I could tell they were newly in love by the way they chose to squeeze themselves into the same side of their narrow booth to be together, when it was obvious, one on each side would have been the better choice. At least, that would have been my choice, as I've always thought it was nicer to be able to look up into each others eyes to talk, rather than be squished together, with both of you staring off in the same direction. Squished is nice if you're watching a movie, cuddled up on the couch under a blanket. Not for lunch.

  But the couple didn't really interest me. I was watching the girl, who was so full of life and energy that it was contagious. When without any warning, she suddenly got up onto her knees, turned around on the seat, put her chin in her hands, and her elbows on the top of the backrest and perched there, smiling at the young couple. I had to smile too.

  That's something that's hard to get away with. Staring at complete strangers while they eat. But when that person, grinning at you over the back of the seat is 3 years old at best, how can you help but smile back?

  I'm sure she wasn't over 3 years old, but it's been a long time since any of my kids were that small, so my judgement may be off a bit. When her blue, whatever-it-was toy, from her Happy Meal, went flying out of her hand onto the floor and she scurried after it, I noticed her shoes matched her pink outfit and glasses.

  I recognized her parents. Not as in, I knew who they were, but rather as, I saw my wife and myself in them.  Unlike the 3 little boys we took to McDonald's though, they had 3 girls. I remember you had to do everything in shifts back then. One stayed with the kids and found booster seats and high chairs, while the other went to order the food. You had to rotate, taking one at a time to the bathroom, while the other stayed and watched the rest. One would gather up the garbage and take it away, while the other packed up the kids. The little girl's parents looked weary.

  I remember being weary.

  But once in awhile, when a little girl gets up on her knees and smiles in your direction, over the back of her booth, while her parents try to get one of her little sisters to eat her apple slices, you forget about the weary, and think about the wonderful.

  ...........and wish it wasn't so long ago.








77 comments:

  1. This is Great ken ... except I'm in my 40's and still having kids so ... But you're so right it's allot of work but just a smile makes it all worth while.

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    1. Thank you!

      It doesn't really matter what age you dive in, just remember that there's magic hidden somewhere in all of the work they require.

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  2. Nothing quite says childhood like being able to wear all pink. There are still family photos of me wearing a hot pick shirt with purple stretch pants. I still wonder if I picked that or my mom did.

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    1. Hi Holly!

      I had actually wondered if she had been in some sort of dance recital. She was particularly coordinated, with all of her pink.

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  3. Well done! I love the tender feel of this post. I know it irritates people sometimes, but I am always happy when little kids peek over the booth at me. You just have to love that sweet and curious spirit!

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    1. Hi Kianwi,

      Thank you! I don't see how people can be irritated by having a little kid smile at them. It always makes me happy when that happens. :)

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  4. Three ages of experience in your story -- the young childless lovers, the young parents of several kids, and the grizzled parenting veteran -- you! Great story.

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    1. Hi Debra,

      It was sort of interesting how it all got laid out before me and the seed of this post germinated in my mind before my fries were gone.

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  5. P.S. Hope you don't mind me calling you grizzled, man.

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    1. Not at all! I'm far more grizzled than chiseled. :)

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  6. Oh. I am just starting to get nostalgic like this. Weird how it happens in a blink. My son is suddenly 13. When did THAT happen? Whoo. Great writing.

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    1. Our youngest is 13, our oldest is 21. I don't know where the time went? One minute, stinky diapers, the next, stinky teen! :)

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  7. Lovely post. So far this week, the accidental theme seems to be nostalgia. I'm getting this sense of wanting to live in the moment, even if that moment is weary. (Which it is.)

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    1. Thank you! I noticed that about the accidental theme. Then I felt bad because for bringing something that was so close to what a lot of the others had worked on.

      Just don't forget to look for the good things. Sometimes we miss them when we're weary.

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  8. This is such a sweet post, Ken! You're right -- only little kids can get away with flat-out staring at complete strangers over the back of a booth. :-)

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    1. Hi Bee,

      It happens every now and then. But after, sometimes I wonder how much of an idiot I must have looked like, making faces back at some strangers kid? OH well. :)

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  9. Oh! This makes me want to take my kids for a happy meal and just enjoy them. I love your line - "...forget about the weary, and think about the wonderful." That should be on a pillow.

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    1. Thanks so much!

      While I was sitting there watching, it occurred to me just how much I missed getting Happy Meals for my boys, and making them finish their meals before they could tear open the toy. :)

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  10. Yes, this does bring back memories even though we were only blessed with one child. And it does seem so very long ago.

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    1. One or three, I don't think it was easier either way.

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  11. so very lovely. and i'm so blessed enough to say that i'm currently living the life with the 3 year old and loving every minute of it (except for maybe bedtime, heh).

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    1. There are times, when you have to look really really hard, to find something wonderful. :)

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  12. I'm getting to relieve those memories at the moment. My daughter-in-law is here with our first grandchild, Michela, just one month old. She's living with us until my son returns from his deployment to Japan.

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    1. I'm currently waiting to start again with grandchildren. (maybe not too enthusiastically, but still?)

      Hoping your son returns to his young family, safe and sound.

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  13. great post. It's a mixed feeling for me when I see a little one that reminds me of bygone days of my now adult kids. Happy memory but a little sad that it seems I didn't relish it enough back then. The good news for me is getting the chance to experience a bit of it again through grandchildren.

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    1. Indeed! Grandchildren are our 2nd chance.

      It was so hard to be able to live in the moment with our children when they were young. Especially when you work so hard to provide for them and it eats up most of your time.

      Our youngest had it much better than our first in that regard, I feel bad it took me so long to figure out what was important.

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  14. I remember my kiddo doing this in a restaraunt on the day he insisted on wearing his red bozo nose...cuz what would lunch be without one? I love it when kids do that! Lovely post! Thanks for the memories.

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    1. Hi Zoe,

      Red bozo nose! That's wonderful, to say the least! That's one memory I doubt will ever be forgotten. For you AND some stranger sitting beside you that day. :)

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  15. Aw, I just love this! But that age was so hard. I don't *really* want to go back, but I do enjoy looking at others.

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    1. I don't know that I would jump at the chance to do it all over again either?

      However, you can sent grandkids home at the end of the day? :)

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  16. I so enjoyed reading this post. I love the little details you captured. I felt like I was in the booth behind you watching the scene unfold.

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    1. Thanks!

      I wanted so badly, to do the whole scene as it played out before me, justice. :)

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  17. I loved this Ken. Makes me reminiscent of a time very long ago. I love it when I see kids, little ones, out at restaurants or at church and if they're a wee but cheeky, it makes me smile even more. I know the parents don't care for mischief but I do! Extremely well told story if a lovely lunch!

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    1. Thank you Gina,

      Cheeky! Exactly! And it's always much more fun as an outsider to get caught up in, than for the parents trying to make sure their kids aren't getting on someone's nerves. :)

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  18. I love when little kiddos do that in restaurants. Its a distraction from the every day. Kid's smiles seem to make everything seem better :)

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    1. They do, don't they! Yet sometimes I think that it's more parents who have already gone through these things that can stop and appreciate these moments.

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  19. I love to watch scearios like this. It does make you wistful, nostalgic, and it gives life meaning. This is a beautiful post, Ken. Thanks.

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    1. Hi McGuffy Ann,

      Thank you so much! :)

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  20. This is so sweet. I only have one child, so we never had that outnumbered feeling but we still did the shift work. He's six now and I already see the differences (small as they may still be). And sometimes I see a littler one and remember those days.

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    1. Hi Michelle,

      A big one is when they want to go to the restaurant washroom by themselves. Then you have to start sitting closer to the can so you can keep a watchful eye.

      You do get pretty efficient at the shift work though. :)

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  21. I could see the little girl looking over the back of the booth, could feel the nostalgia...
    Wonderful post.

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    1. Thank you!

      I was curious as to just how long she would stay like that. It looked like she was quite prepared to watch them eat their whole meal. I think she might have, if she hadn't dropped her toy. :)

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  22. That was so sweet - and so well done - and made me wish adults interacted with one another with the same openness that children do (without people looking at them as though they were crazy). It's so fun to engage in conversation with a random stranger without feeling like there are motives or being self-conscious about it (but very few allow you to get away with it without that bit of awkwardness or expectation of an agenda).

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    1. Thank you!

      It's getting to the point that nobody interacts with anybody anymore. Just sent a text. Maybe I'll try to say hi to a few more random people, see if I get locked up? :)

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  23. Hey friend,

    May I say, this is QUITE a piece of writing!! Wow! Loved it.

    I always enjoy when this kind of thing happens in public - over the back of seats at restaurants, peeking at me from around the parent while in a shopping cart. I am THAT adult that will start making faces, and smile, or be silly and interact with a kiddo in a heartbeat. I also like to wave wildly at them in other cars as we pass them by on the highway if they are gawking out the window.

    Don't get me started - getting ready to graduate my second (and last child)...time has flown. I am COMPLETELY uncertain as to how to 'parent' 'almost-grown-up-but-not-really-people, and it really was just yesterday that I was watching them play in the park.

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    1. Hello, my friend!

      Thanks so much! I agree, I'm sort of like that too. That's part of the reason that I like driving the bus on field trips for the little guys. Everything is exciting to them. I like that.

      Eventually, even though you can see them making mistakes (not all the time) sometimes all you can do is offer advice and let them fail or not on their own. Hopefully the mistakes aren't too big and they learn from it and know better next time.

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  24. I love this.. the way you're on the outside watching... almost an image of your old life.. so tender and bittersweet. i big on sap. they're still reasonably young over here and i'm already missing that 3 year old face smudged with ketchup.. not that my 10 year old knows how to use a napkin.. :)

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    1. I'm a little big on sap too. Sometimes I look at an old picture or something and wonder how the heck the kid I have now was ever that little person.

      My 13 year old is napkin deficient too. :)

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  25. The second post of tonight that has made me cry. I'm reading this mere minutes after my toddler has climbed into our bed and fallen asleep on part of my pillow.

    Such a heartwarming post.

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    1. Thanks!

      Sorry about making you cry. :)

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  26. Beautiful post. Brought tears to my eyes in a good way.

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    1. Thanks so much!

      Another one with the tears! I'm happy they were good tears. :)

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  27. Oh, this is so beautiful. I love how descriptive you are and found myself nodding along. I am right in the middle of the weary as the mother of a three year old. And I know that all too soon it will seem far away.

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    1. Thank you!

      I think you have some time left. I found, it's when they go off to school and discover that there's a whole world out there without you, that gets a little hard to adjust to. Enjoy it while you can. :)

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  28. I love the juxtaposition in this of three couples at different stages of their lives, and the nostalgia you feel when you imagine yourself as both the young lovers, and the weary parents.

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    1. Give me 20 years or so, and I'll be able to add another stage as the seniors gathered there for coffee.

      That might take me more than 500 words though. :)

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  29. Well, you've made me feel better about my 2 year old staring at people in restaurants! Maybe someone is looking at him and remembering things fondly. It is a weary stage of life. The days are long, but the years seem to fly by as they grow up.

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    1. I hope that's the case. I'm sure there's at least a few good memories being stirred up.

      I know when it was us though, we were always trying to keep the attentions focused on our own table. We didn't want to offend anybody. Funny how your perspective changes? :)

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  30. Now I'm bawling because this is so tender without being cheesy. Weary indeed and so blessed. Great post!

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    1. Thank you!

      I'm so glad that it worked. Sorry about the bawling though. :)

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  31. We're still in the living life in shifts phase. My kids are almost 8, 5.5, and the twins just turned 2. It's gonna be a while...

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    1. Sounds like you're in it for the long haul! Thanks for reading. :)

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  32. Ken, I adore the way you tell a story. I could see this little girl and feel your emotions. And it made me smile. I've had moments like these and it really helps me appreciate the here and now with my little guy (I have an older 22 year old and now a 6 year old so I flip between missing the memories and re-experiencing them all over again).

    I'm putting your button on my "Crazy-Good Bloggers" page!

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    1. Hi Terrye!

      You certainly do have the unique position of being able to go back and get those feeling all over again after a bit of time since the first one. You have my admiration at this. I'm not so sure that, even though I really liked those times, I'd be willing to start again at this point. Good for you!

      And WOW! Thanks for using my button! I hope it works, I'm pretty sure that you may be the first one to grab it. I feel like I should give you a fanfare of trumpets or something? :)

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  33. Aw, so sweet. But not cloying sweet. Just the good kind of sweet. And I loved this: "Squished is nice if you're watching a movie, cuddled up on the couch under a blanket. Not for lunch."

    So glad to meet you via Yeah Write. Look forward to reading more!

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    1. Thanks so much!

      It was nice to meet you as well. Thanks for the follow, I'm more than happy to return the favor. So, you'll probably see me kicking around a bit. :)

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  34. Sweet post Ken. One minute they're 3, and then suddenly they're 20. It seems to go by in the blink of an eye.

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    1. Thank you,

      You don't think that it will, but it really does, doesn't it.

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  35. Getting in line with everyone. You have struck a chord with so many comments. I love children too.

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    1. Every time I toss my hat into the Yeah Write circle, it seems to be that way. They're such a friendly group. :)

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  36. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  37. Ken, whatever you do, do NOT click on that link above!! Anonymous is making its rounds, it seems! Just saw a ton of these over at Susannah's blog!

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    1. Thanks.

      I'm getting a lot of it lately. Blogger usually weeds it out, but the occasional one gets through. I think I can turn off the ability to comment anonymously. I have to look into it as most of the spam come that way.

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  38. I love it when kids pop their heads over the booth! I hate it, however, when the parents try to get them to turn around and sit in their seats, as if the kids are bothering me. I sometimes get the kids in trouble by encouraging them and play along with their game of peek a boo.

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    1. Hey Dan, those impromptu games of peek a boo are always the best. I don't think most parents mind.

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  39. Ken,

    It's those moments when I wish I had more kids. When I catch a toddler doing those amazingly cute things, I catch myself sighing and forgetting the hard work and weariness and can only remember the sweet times.

    Thanks for reminding me of that.

    Cheers my Friend!

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    1. Hi Heather! You're welcome.

      I think it balances out, hopefully the the good is what we carry with us for the rest of our lives.

      And maybe a bad story or two to share about our kids during their wedding or some other situation where we can embarrass them in public. :)

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