I'm lovin’ it: The Golden Arches community | Moment's Notice

By Maria A. Montalvo | Aug 16, 2019

McDonald’s is an American institution. Yes, I am talking about McDonald’s, the fast food restaurant.

Everyone has a story or childhood memory of going to McDonald’s. Most of us had our first experiences there as kids, and going to McDonald’s was more than just getting a meal, it was a statement of your identity.

Were you one who preferred a Big Mac to a Quarter Pounder (with cheese, of course, why have a hamburger?) or maybe Chicken McNuggets?

Which pie was better – cherry or apple (the cherry is no longer on the menu, but Sara Lee makes a frozen one that will take you right back there)? What was the best toy in a Happy Meal (anything “Star Wars”)? Why did dads always get filet of-fish (not sure)?

And most importantly, how often were you allowed the treat of an Egg McMuffin and hash brown breakfast (not often)?

My grandmother (mi abuela) loved McDonald’s, so when she moved in with us when I was 7, my brother and I were very happy to have the McDonald’s experience more often (still rare, mind you). She would not readily eat anything other than a hamburger and french fries after moving from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia.

I remember sitting on the plastic molded chairs attached to the tables, my legs dangling off the side, and the seat leaving a crease in my legs. We usually needed two tables since most of them were four seats.

I remember how very cold it was inside in the summertime. The staff behind the counter still wore those paper hats, and Ronald McDonald showed up from time to time. I remember everyone was happy.

Once we moved to the suburbs, we stopped going. My grandmother was not well, my brother and I were fully involved teenagers, and my parents were busy attempting a work-life balance as an early case of the “sandwich generation” before phrases like that became standard.

Years later, now in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my parents started to go to McDonald’s again. They had retired, and after a few years at busy restaurants, they remembered that simplicity. There were trees along the edge of the parking lot, and the drive-thru staff was nice.

The menu had grown to include everything from burritos and salads and cookies. They would go together often, and once my dad passed away, my mom continued to go to McDonald’s several times a week. The staff remembers her (and him) speak to her in Spanish if she speaks to them in Spanish, and are still nice – even giving her a rose on Mother’s Day.

They remember me when I visit.

There is a gentleman in Edmonds I know who also goes to one of our McDonald’s just about every day (he gets a salad with grilled chicken). He likes the people who work there. He likes the affordable meal choices that bring whole families to eat together, just like we did when I was a kid.

Most people in Edmonds know him as the brilliant, giving and kind man he is, who, perhaps like my parents, recognizes that feeling that consistency, authenticity, and lack of complexity behind the counter are important.

McDonald’s is not the only place for community. As a restaurant owner, I certainly understand that local shops and restaurants are also home to regulars who come to be part of our family. Of course we understand that menu choices need to become healthier and more sustainable.

For many, though, McDonald’s still represents what it always has – a welcoming, honest, diverse, and safe place.

My mom’s local McDonald’s is under construction right now, closed for several months. Despite the Starbucks just around the corner, I have to admit, I miss going with my mom every morning, feeling the warmth of the staff at the window, sitting by those trees, and taking a bite of a hash brown.

 

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