Lana Vaughan

The Queen of Questions

Value Meals

I would like to blame McDonald’s but I can’t. I would like to think they created and packaged the short cut that has undermined society but I can’t. They just gave it a snappy little name and a reasonable price. Then they decided to make it so easy you don’t even have to get out of your car. The rest was up to us.

Shortly after I got married, I inherited my mother in law’s beautiful Ethan Allen dining room table. It came with 4 leaves. It seats 8 comfortably and 10 snuggly. Once a year, on Christmas eve, we would put all the leaves in. I delighted in setting a place for my husband at the head, my place at the opposite end and a place for each of our children on either side. I never met my MIL as she had passed away the year before my husband and I found each other. I imagined she would have been pleased. No one buys at table that big for just two or three. It was meant for family. It was meant for dinners and it was built to last.

One of the things I looked forward to with the new home we moved into this year was that it has a dining room big enough to put all the leaves in and leave them there. No more taking it apart and storing them under the bed until next Christmas. I had expectations and was looking forward to setting that table every Sunday afternoon and seeing my grandchildren around it once a week enjoying a home cooked meal and talking about everything that they had been up to since I last saw them.

But the thing with expectations is they usually depend on others to be met. And they have to be adjusted when others chose not to meet them. Sunday dinners have been cancelled. In no uncertain terms, I have been informed that they are too busy to commit to dinner once a week. They have too many other things that they have decided take priority to building a relationship with me. They have activities that they want to do that mean more to them. They can’t make the time for dinner every week. It’s just too much to ask.

Last night I did get to sit around a table and have dinner with them. It was a table I cleaned at McDonald’s. The previous customers had left trash and ketchup on the table. “It’s ok. It’s just McDonald’s…someone will clean up after me.” I had already placed our order for the value meals. It’s easier. Someone I’ve never met who has been trained to make the exact same stuff the exact same way you can order it in any McDonald’s around the world, slapped together a few mass produced items and put them on a plastic tray. Dinner was served. I don’t know about the McDonald’s near you but few have a single table that seats 8. Large families can spread out over two tables and have dinner near each other. Most McDonald’s are designed for high turn over. Eat your meal and get going. No lingering. Many even have posted signs prohibiting lingering or loitering.

I get it. But it doesn’t sit very well with me that McDonald’s meals are called Value and my weekly home cooked dinners are a burden, an imposition, an unrealistic expectation. When kids get 4 or 5 or more meals from a fast food restaurant every week because its fast and cheap that is the value being instilled in the next generation.

I inherited the table from the generation before me but fear it will go not only unused but unwanted by the next generation and the one after that will have no idea it even existed.

Thanks McDonald’s. At least I know they are eating.


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