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Hope's Corner: Don't Worry, Be Happy

"The memories of Happy Meals loomed large, comforting me in the crisis, and with the anonymity of being in a drive-through lane, nobody would know if I was getting a Happy Meal for myself, or for some hungry toddler back home," writes Jackie Hope.

Jackie Hope BW.jpg
Jackie Hope is the longest running Dickinson Press contributor and columnist. Hope's Corner is a weekly humorous column with a message of hope. (CONTRIBUTED / FOR THE DICKINSON PRESS)

One of my favorites of life’s little pleasures is a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Really, it is not merely one of my favorites. It is my absolute favorite.

If we are running late at lunchtime, I get a Happy Meal. If we are unsure what to cook for supper, I get a Happy Meal. If I am feeling sorry for myself, I get a Happy Meal, and I don’t even share the fries inside. If I am road tripping, I stop for a Happy Meal. And then I found a Casey’s General Store to get a donut for dessert.

Before Covid came along, and we all were relegated to using drive-throughs for our date night dining, I was a little embarrassed to order a Happy Meal. Not so embarrassed that I would not order one. But just enough embarrassed that I would indicate to the food service helper that a young friend was collecting the Happy toys, and I was helping him out.

I have been over-the-moon-happy about Happy Meals since our son was first introduced to them. We would split a Happy back then. We’d share and share alike on the fries and McNuggets. Then I was given the sweet and sour sauce packet to take home, while he always got the toy. Dang, some of those toys were pretty sweet, too.

As time passed, our son was more into the 20-piece Nuggets with a half-pound of fries. And he was a tad bit skeptical of sitting at the same table with a mom who bovinely munched on a Happy Meal. I even offered him the toy from the Happy.

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Family dining out moved more toward sit-downs with real cloth napkins. Growing sons like to eat large quantities of meat while dining out. Chicken McNuggets became more of an appetizer than a meal. Happy Meals were a distant memory.

Then came Covid. We washed all our groceries like a family of raccoons. Restaurants were closed. Even most drive-throughs were closed. We were truly afraid to order food for carry-out for months and months.

Word on the street finally came that McDonald’s was open for take-home treats. The memories of Happy Meals loomed large, comforting me in the crisis. And with the anonymity of being in a drive-through lane, nobody would know if I was getting a Happy Meal for myself, or for some hungry toddler back home.

My first Happy Meal in the post-Covid world was the best meal ever. Chicken McNuggets. Fries. Extra fries substituted for the apple slices – who wants to eat healthy after months of confinement? And an orange soda. Absolute perfection.

And the toys? Now I save my Happy toys for Princess Charlotte. It won’t be long before she discovers the perfection of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Third gen Happy Meal McJunkie.

Jackie Hope is the longest running Dickinson Press contributor and columnist. "Hope's Corner" is a weekly humorous column centered on a message of hope for residents in southwest North Dakota.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Dickinson Press, nor Forum ownership.

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