Friday, December 4, 2020
It was Christmas Eve, 1961. I was with my family at my grandparent’s house in Cleveland, Ohio. Grandma had done an amazing job of decorating. To an eight-year old boy’s eyes it seemed that every possible space in the house shouted the beauty and excitement of Christmas.
As I played with my brothers that afternoon, we were interrupted by my dad and my Uncle Al. They closed the sliding French doors that separated the sunroom from the dining room, and spoke very quietly to us. Uncle Al did most of the talking.
“You boys have never eaten Christmas Eve ‘You’ll Regret’ before, but believe me, it’s not good. So I have an idea. Let’s sneak out in my car and go to a new restaurant I want to try. The only thing is you can NEVER mention to grandma that we went.”
Having never tasted the Norwegian rice dish that is double-boiled in heavy cream, we boys were all in favor of something to eat. Christmas Eve dinner would be in two hours so Uncle Al and My dad figured the timing was perfect to satisfy us through supper if we didn’t like what grandma made. So one by one we left the sunroom, grabbed our jackets, and snuck to Uncle Al’s car.
Once we got in the car, Uncle Al started telling us about the new restaurant to which we were headed. He told us to be looking for golden arches. We were headed to the first McDonald’s that had opened in Cleveland earlier that year. Little did we know what an influence that meal would have on our lives. Even less did we realize the trouble that was waiting at home.
My first taste of a cheeseburger and fries with a strawberry milkshake was unforgettable, and I have the waistline to prove it. Two Big Macs, a large fry, and a strawberry milkshake was my everyday lunch while in college. My brothers loved their food as well. After we were done eating, Uncle Al spoke sternly.
“Not a word of this when we get home. Grandma must never know. Do your best to eat a little of the ‘You’ll Regret’ but don’t let on that you’ve already eaten.“
As we sat down for supper, and grandma brought out the rice, the butter, the brown sugar, the cinnamon, and the Norwegian fruit bread, I was very nervous. It all looked amazing to me, and I knew I was going to love it. But could I eat enough to convince grandma that I liked it since I was still satisfied from the afternoon Mickey D’s run.
After grandpa prayed, as everyone served up their food, the silence was broken by the loud shout of my youngest brother.
“Man I’m full!”
I was looking at my grandma when he said it. She had a shocked and angry look on her face. I saw her look at my dad, who was looking at Uncle Al. Grandma spoke.
“How can that little boy be full?”
Uncle All confessed to what had happened. Grandma looked at me as I took another spoonful of “I don’t regret the rice but I regret being a part of a lie.” I told grandma how good it was, and that I wish I had more room in my stomach for more. She smiled through tears.
I learned several lessons that day. Don’t lie. Don’t keep secrets that could hurt others. And the most important lesson of all – love forgives even when it’s been hurt.