I nibbled on the sandwich and tucked my seven fries neatly into the saran. We never got our own when we came here; forget even hoping for a hamburger or Happy Meal. My mother packed tuna or baloney in the big red cooler. By the time we got to them, the sandwiches were damp and flat. The loose ice cubes had begun melting and seeping through the plastic wrap.
On rare occasions we were treated to a large coke to split between us all, but more often she asked for water in the plastic cups they served the pop in. Thankfully we ate outside on the picnic tables.
Only a stray family or two ever witnessed my humiliation.
Inside was packed with people who’d ordered full meals, munching on Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. I peeped through the window and spied a girl my age. I watched her laugh, a fry halfway to her mouth. Her wild copper hair was tamed neatly into two braids. I couldn't be a hundred per cent but I was willing to bet she was covered in freckles. And my toes curled inside my dirty old sneakers when I saw the gleaming white soles of her Tretorns peaking out from under the table as she stretched back into her chair.
Her lunch was spread out on the table, the yellow paper of her cheeseburger flattened to hold the burger and fries, a treat-of-the-week still in its wrapper. An older boy sat across from her, his mouth full of McChicken –I could tell because the meat between the buns was not dark like that of a hamburger. I assessed the little family; mother, father, brother, sister – perfect fit at the table for four. No need to add chairs, no reason to track down the manager for an extra table.
I looked around at all of us. My two sisters were quietly eating their sandwiches, the baby on my mother’s lap was grabbing at a straw. The other two boys were chasing each other around the small courtyard. The red cooler sitting in the middle of the table announced our deficiency like a beacon in a deserted night sky.
The prompt asked us to write a 300 word piece of flash fiction about Life. I would call mine creative non-fiction. I'm also joining Lisa at Two Bears Farm for Memory lane Friday.
Growing up, there were many aspects of large family life, that bothered me. Now that I'm a parent myself, I know those were the aspects that helped shape me into an appreciative, live-within-my-means, type of person. I realize that no matter how often I wish my kids would take better care of their toys, or really "get" how lucky they are, they will never ever grasp the abundance they are fortunate to be a part of.