I'm seated in a McDonald's restaurant for the second time in seven hours, the first time ever that I am consuming fast food for both my lunch and early dinner. Hoping to avoid judgment, I rationalize that it has been a long day, week and even month — a fact is becoming more of the rule than the exception. I juggle commuting, work, family distress phone calls (and texts), and a to-do list that exceeds my phone calendar's space all with a personal hope I can do my best — for me and those who rely upon me.
There's a young family in the next booth, mom handling two children who are bouncing with energy, while negotiating what they will eat on this Friday evening. The store's new process, to prevent too many people from waiting around and add dignity to the experience, is to have a staff member deliver the food to the table for those of us who will dine in. When it arrives, it's the son who dives into the cardboard box housing his Happy Meal in search of the Pokémon toy. He is beyond elated when he discovers it's the version he really wanted, and loudly declares, "Everything is going good today!"
I love him for this moment — for the impulsiveness of his remark and its deep sincerity. He is a blissful child and I'm witnessing joy in its most pure form. It doesn't matter that the food should be a once-in-a-while dinner or that the toy might eventually get wedged between the seats of the family SUV. What matters is now — that sweet feeling that life is good.
For me, the moment conjured up the question of when did I lose that feeling? When did "it doesn't get better than this" stop crossing my mind? Is it selfish? Am I too self-involved? Is it a matter of gratitude or lack there of? Why did it end, or morph, when the adulting happened?
I finish my French fries and toss away wrappers, turning to leave.
"Everything is going good today," he had said so spontaneously. And despite all the demands and challenges of my life now, my typically-reserved self realizes he's so very right.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.