A Lovely Family Outing
March 2002

Eric and Rachel have chosen to build their little family on a few hectares of rural land outside of Oaxaca city for values that don't include many of things that we are hardened too up here in the north, such as franchise fast-food restaurants. Nevertheless, as this tale shows, an experience at the "scary restaurant" can be a lovely family outing, indeed…

Lulie in her mud-daub and thatch playhouse build by her Pa.

As you well know, the Easter bunny is coming tomorrow- which will be yesterday when you get this. So the oldest daughter was quite excited before bed tonight. And the day before we went to a real movie (only the third time in her life- first was when she was four months and she cried, second was when she was three years and we saw Chicken Run- which was very traumatic for a little girl, and therefore her parents - and the third was to see Peter Pan II at the Mall.) But first we met up with other friends at (on their initiative) McDonalds. For us country folk this was something of a splash of cold water in the face. We were pretty confused about what to order. Finally I got the Happy Meal for Lu, but only after Rachel said, or rather actually yelled to me in all my confusion after I'd already panic ordered something else, that the other parents where getting it too and it had a toy in it and we'd better not leave Lu out of that event.

"Can you change that to a happy meal senorita?"

The toy was a little red dog with heart shaped eyes that light up when you push it's paws up. Is that the same toy as in Auburn? And can you get Jalapeno chilis as condiments there? We ordered one Trio special meal that Rachel saw a promo sign for; shows that advertising works, especially when you are really ignorant about what's what and all your friends have already ordered and are now at the table eating, almost done and you are standing there trying to figure out what to get. Should I get the Un Cuarto de Libra, or el McPollo? What are those things? So I got the trio special like the sign said I should- it was a cleverly combined trio that I wouldn't have thought of myself, so I'm glad I had that sign to guide me. It was a hamburger (or would you like the chicken burger senor?), a soda (Sprite please) and papas a la francesa.

"But sir, that's at full price today- it's only a special Monday through Thursday."

"Whatever senorita, just give it too me."

We ordered one of those to split between us, and the Happy Meal for Lu. Then sat down to eat, but had to pull another table over 'cause all the other parents who came had filled up the two tables I'd pulled together for the group when we got there. Can't pull the tables together at your McDonalds? Try going into Playland like we did. Those tables are loose. And there is that little trampoline with plastic balls all over it and the big tunnel and slides that look just like the thing I used to have for my gerbel. Lulie just kind of stared at all that. No chance in hell she was going through those tubes up that two-story cave slide. Looked scary to me, too, and I've been a place or two. And the trampo with balls was full of, GOD FORBID, boys, so Lu wouldn't even go near.

Karel, the two and a half year-old boy of one of our friends was in there throwing the balls, just like all the other little testosterone bundles (so glad I had two girls). But then he and a boy of this missionary family started fighting, slapping and pulling at each other. Unless you're an acrobatic parent, you can't get into the netted-off trampoline. Karel's Ma was at the counter on the other side of the restaurant ordering and Pa was nowhere to be seen. I was the only responsible adult on the scene and I've never broken up a fight between three-year-olds who are ten feet away behind a net in a noisy room. I wasn't real sure what to do so for a moment I just kind of stood there the way Lulie did when she first walked into that crazy playland room. Then the Mom of the other boy, less dazzled I suspect, sensibly called her boy in a "You come here or you're in BIG trouble buster" type voice. Which worked. And so I called Karel out of his fisticuffs, and he actually came and I took him, screaming, to Ma.

That missionary boy got a spanking in the bathroom we found out. We got another table and sat down to eat. But then there were no straws- where do you get straws? I got up and found them.

"Eric, we need more ketchup".

Where do you get ketchup? There was this thing with little ketchup bags in it next to the straws, but it was a box with a plexiglass window and a hole in the top like a piggy bank. As far as I could tell, the only way to get them out was to turn the thing upside down and shake it. And I was embarrassed to do that less the folks around think I was some yokel just in from the fields. So I got the guy at the counter to give me some. I sat back down only to find out we had no napkins. I tell you, I've been here in Oaxaca eating slow food for too long, which always seems to come with the accessories necessary to eat it. So I got some napkins next to the straws and the ketchup piggy bank. And settled in to eat- which was fine I guess, though we ended up wearing a hole through the printed paper placemat on our plastic tray where we poured little packet after little packet of ketchup for our french fries.

That hamburger we split disappeared pretty fast. I guess it wasn't a quarter-pounder (which is less than an eighth of a kilo after all). So I was hoping Lu wouldn't finish her little Happy Meal burger. She'll often only take a few bites of strange new foods. But she ate right through it. 'Till she got to the middle and bit into a green thing. She made a strange face and asked what that was.

"Hey, it's a pickle, Lu!"

Lulie with Pa at Puerto Angel

Well, that was exciting, because we've been using pickle a lot in our expressions; such as "Pretty As A... ," and, "Aren't You A Cute Little..." So that pickle was like a familiar friend and Lu bit right into it...and then turned up her face this way and that and that little green vinegary pickle flopped right from her tongue onto the floor. Lu was using Zea's stroller for a seat and was rolling back and forth the way a five-year-old will tend to do when eating, whether in stroller or chair. So that rejected pickle slice was mushed and shredded to nothing in the course of the meal. I didn't get Lu's hamburger, or her pickle. But our Trio Special (Monday through Thursday) soda was huge, in fact the two of us couldn't even finish it off. I asked Lu if she was enjoying her happy meal. She kind of nodded and then asked,

"Why do they call it a Happy Meal?"

I said it had to do with the box. Anyway, we went to the movie, Lu and I and some other friends in a family way. Ray stayed out with Zea window shopping in the mall. The movie was all right, but VERY loud and Lu had to plug her ears on parts. There were some scary parts too, like the huge octopus that thinks Capt'n Hook is a cod fish and other stuff too and the bombs falling on London and when all the children of the city had to be evacuated on trains. But Lu weathered that just fine. She (and we) may not be to up to date on eating and MacDons, but she's slick on movie watching, even scary parts- though we never turn the volume up as much as in the theatre.

This morning, while I was making french toast for Lu with an egg from our chickens she asked where that little doggie was. I had no idea what she was talking about.

"That one we brought home yesterday from that place."

I was figuring she was confusing a dream for real, though she's never done that before.

"What place, Lu?"

"That little red doggie with the heart shaped eyes," she said, "that we got at that scary restaurant."

Amen, my wise daughter, amen!


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