This is part of a series of things previously written, this one being a university assignment that I enjoyed so much, mostly because of the subject matter: my family and our, at times, quirky history. And in lieu of a more appropriate picture (I only have so many available in Korea) here’s a fun family throwback. For the series’ preface, read this.
“Adinaaa…” Dad calls from my bedroom door in that slightly higher, playful tone. “Do you want to go for breakfast with Pake?” He doesn’t have to say where, because I already know: McDonald’s. We have been doing this ritual with Pake (Frisian for “Grandpa”, and pronounced “Pahkuh”) as long as I can remember.
It’s a Saturday morning, and as my family has a ‘late-Friday-night-movies’ habit, it’s a groggy one. “Mmmmhmmmm…,” I mumble, and slowly blink away the sleep. As I leave the snug confines of my wintry blankets, I throw myself into getting ready to leave on time. Breakfast ends at 11 AM, and the time is 10:20 – a far cry from the time Dad always used to bring me to McDonald’s in the mornings.
When I was a 5-month-old baby in 1992, Dad would often tote me with him to meet Pake at 6:30 in the morning before work; he would drink his coffee and I would have my bottle. He did this so my tired new Mom could get some much-needed rest, as I was an early riser and particularly at odds with sleep. In later years, after I actually grew some substantial curls, before leaving Dad would attempt to do my hair, complete with a bow, and put together my outfit before we went out.
It was 1994 when my brother entered the picture, but he wasn’t yet introduced to our morning tradition, as he was better at sleeping than I ever was. As the years continued to pass and my brother and I started school, our common weekday morning coffees at McDonald’s turned into the occasional Saturday morning breakfast.
Back in 2011, I run around the house quietly getting ready and, as usual, am careful not to wake Mom or my brother who are sleeping (a pastime they both readily enjoy). As Dad and I step out into the frigid air that is November, I duck back in for my toque and scarf.
We climb into Dad’s truck, which may as well have been a Home Depot on wheels, and I find a spot for myself amidst all his tools. He is a contractor and owns his own construction company. He tells me he picked up many good clients over the years from going for coffee in the mornings – using the ‘McDonald’s Connection’ as he put it. Driving towards the nearby McDonalds in his rumbling truck, we pass many familiar sights: our church, a local high school, an A&W, a Starbucks where an old theatre used to be not too long ago, and more.
Pulling into the parking lot, he parks the truck beside Pake’s car. The chilly wind urges us across the parking lot and into the establishment. Like walking straight into a memory, I am hit with a strong sense of nostalgia, no matter the number of times this place has been renovated.
Throughout my elementary years, when we made our monthly Saturday morning sojourn, we would often detour over to visit Pake’s old Greek friends. They were always sitting near the front entrance, exclaiming in their thick accents how big we were getting. Dad, after chatting with them, would steer us to where Pake was sitting and take our order. As soon as that was taken care of, my brother and I would race each other for the best Nintendo 64 games McDonald’s had. We would gleefully play Banjo-Tooie and Excitebike 64 and more until Dad came back with our breakfast and called for us to come sit. Often, Pake would show us some new coin or another collectible he recently acquired, which we would look at with awe as we filled our faces.
I can’t help but grin as I remember those times, Dad and I weaving our way through the place toward Pake. After spotting him, we rush to order breakfast before it ends, and as Dad orders something for Mom, I pipe in that we will get that meal “to-go” since she always enjoys any form of “breakfast-in-bed.”
“Not this time,” Dad says, for she will be joining us this morning.
Surprised, I soon find myself back at our table with Dad and our meals. Not too much is different: we chat, Dad pulls out an old coin he got, and Pake pretends to steal it with his usual chuckle, which sounds strangely akin to Woody Woodpecker.
After eating, I sit back and smile as we all trade stories, taking it all in as the nostalgia sinks deeper. I ask them to tell me about how we went to McDonald’s when I was little and they regale me with stories of how we went so often, the ladies working the morning shift came to know us quite well. So well, they would present my brother and I with a muffin, complete with a candle, for our birthdays. Over the years, I would bump into one lady or another that would explain how they knew me when I was a baby at McDonald’s and saw me grow up, and then exclaim how old I was getting. It was the usual fare, but I always smiled as I re-experienced that connection.
When my Mom finally arrives, late, (“There was a sale at Michaels!” she insists) she readily joins in on the reminiscing.
As I sit there listening to these stories from my childhood, connected with food and people I love, I can hardly think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning.