FRENCH FRIES
FOR EVERYONE

    If I had to guess, I’d say the first words spoken by most little babies would be "Momma" or "Dadda," or maybe something like "mine."  
    One of my kids shattered that myth. He was doing the usual mumble-jumble babbling babies do until one day when we pulled up outside McDonald’s on one of those family car trips.
    While his brother and sisters were shouting their orders, he continued his babbling and drooling. Suddenly, his eyes brightened and you could almost see the world opening up to him.
     "Iwanfrenfry."
     Everyone stopped shouting and looked at him. Was it babbling or could it be? He looked at the faces staring at him, realizing that he was the center of attention.
    "Iwanfrenfry," he repeated.
    Hallelujah!. My boy had seen the Golden Arches and it had propelled him into the world of communication. Some kids see a big, warm lady and say "Momma." Mine saw the Golden Arches and came out with "Iwanfrenfry."
    It was a proud moment for me. "Let’s get that kid some french fries," I cried, a tear in my eye. "He’s a boy who knows what he wants."
    Now that he’s almost nine years old, not much has changed. While his vocabulary has increased somewhat, his taste in food has pretty much remained stagnant.
    This point was brought home to me once again on our latest car trip, which was not unlike the 432 previous ones we’ve taken with kids.
    "Where does everyone want to eat?" I said as we pulled out of the driveway for the four hour trip to Tahoe.
    There was no answer from the back seats. My wife and I looked at each other. Could it be? Could this be the trip where the kids have grown up to the point where we could eat somewhere besides McDonald’s?
    My wife’s suggestion of Chez Panisse was quickly ruled out by me. While I enjoy good food, Chez Panisse did not meet our family car trip requirement of having a drive-thru window.
    I decided to step up to the plate. "How about…." I suggested, cringing a little, "Burger King."
    "NOOOOOO!" they cried, in unison. "Their fries suck," added my nine year old, showing he had, unfortunately, increased his vocabulary from his "Iwanfrenfry" days.
     My wife and I looked at each other again. Okay, Burger King was out, but still there had been no mention of McDonald’s. This could be the day where she would realize her dream of the whole family going to Kentucky Fried Chicken.
    With a knowing glance, we jointly decided not to push the issue. We drove on. The kids were silent, seemingly content with the knowledge they would be fed somewhere up the road.
    As we got close to Sacramento, there were the usual rumblings about when we were going to stop. We passed the Pitt School Road exit, where the Golden Arches could clearly be seen from I-80. No screams of recognition from the back seat.
    I nodded to my wife. The first test had been passed. A few more miles down the road and we would know for sure if the family was maturing.
    The Mace Blvd exit---drive-thru heaven. Without a word, I got off the freeway and slowly cruised the strip, surveilling a multitude of fast food selections, including, of course, McDonald’s.
     But no Kentucky Fried Chicken. My wife’s big chance to order mashed potatoes and gravy was squashed. She was crestfallen, but I was not.
    As soon as I saw it, I knew it was for us--Taco Bell. I was going to open up for the kids a world of chicken soft tacos and burritos. We were going international.
    I quietly pulled into the parking lot, heading for drive-thru.
    "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" came the cry from the back seats.
    "I thought we’d try something different," I calmly replied.
    The chant, started by the nine-year old and joined by the others, was deafening.
    "IWANFRENFRY, IWANFRENFRY."
     It wasn’t as cute as the first time, but it was just as effective.
 

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