Mc Donald’s.  It’s not about health.  It’s about surprise.  The most sought after Happy Meal Toy du month… surprise!   The Happy Meal Toy… it’s collectible.  It’s usually six or eight of something.  It’s chic.  It’s current.  It’s addicting.  It’s brilliant.  This little collection of chic and current tchotchkes keeps you coming back until you have collected them all.  Fact: it’s true.  You can’t collect just one.    

Today, I scooped Stephen up from school and headed to lunch.  In the car, I asked, “Where you wanna go for lunch?”  He said, wryly, “I’d like McDonalds, but I shouldn’t have it.”  I replied, “Everything in moderation, right?”  “Cool”, he relieved.  McDonalds (Mickey D's) it is… 

Once inside the local Mickey D's, I am reminded why we shouldn’t go to it.  Nonetheless… it’s fast and easy.  We approach the counter.  I lean in.  Quietly, with rote, I order.  One kid’s Happy Meal.  Six piece Mc Nugget.  Fries.  Coke.  For a Boy.  

We don’t come here for the toy anymore; Stephen's nine now.  I glance over at the dated, dusty and encased display hanging jauntily on the wall.  “For a Boy” Happy Meal Toy Collectibles… this month is…  Skylanders.  I chuckle to myself.  I am nostalgic for our Mickey D days of youth - complete with its Happy Meal and surprise toy, which kept them happy for hours.  Just the kinda happy we needed after a shot, a sick visit, or rounding the corner after a 24 hour stomach virus.  There is something universal about the Happy Meal that makes the pain go away. 

We stepped aside after we ordered and waited for our Happy Meal.  I was lost in thought when two very young boys swooshed by us.  Squealing with delight, their banter and sing-song catch me.  I am acutely aware of them.  Their precious and pudgy little arms flailing and pointing… “Grandma!  We need this one… and that one… then we will have the complete set!”  They hold each other, “You get that one and I’ll get that one.”  “Grandma!  Can we get these two Skylanders!  Hurry! Look Grandma!”  
They are as intense and as focused and as in delight as boys can be… ever.

I catch my breath and listen for a moment.  Stephen too, is caught up in the hullabaloo-ing around the Happy Meal Toy case.   

“Look at them Stevie - they are like you used to be!”  “Remember those days? You guys just wanted the toy!”, I remind.  Stephen smiles and says, “Yeah, they’re cute, mom. It’s funny, but they’re not gonna get the ones they want.”  I smirked, “Yeah, you’re probably right.  Poor grandma is gonna have to manage their impending little melt downs…” 

Stephen collects his Happy Meal at the counter. He opens it.  “OY, mom - it’s not even the Skylander.”  “It’s a dumb toy from, like, two years ago.  Those little boys are going to be really mad.”

We glance toward the boys.  Blissfully unaware, they are hanging on the edge of the counter, singing and babbling.  It is the babble of excited little boys - when they know something big is on the horizon.  Good toys are comin’.  Our set is soon to be complete… For that moment, they are in their own little world.  They’re banded bothers, under grandma’s care - a memory in the making.  They’re waiting… for their surprise Skylanders  - which they are sure will be the ones the Happy Meal display taunts they are missing.

Their Happy Meals arrive.  Sure enough the toy surprise is a riotous surprise.  The unrecognizable and unbranded toy from long ago.  Bait.N.Switch. 

On cue, the precious duo breaks out in panic.  Confusion.  Frustration.  Tears.  “Grandma!  This isn’t the toy!”  “Look grandma - it’s NOT the Skylander!”  They’re so, so upset, Stephen and I are empathic.  We do FEEL their pain and disappointment.  Stephen whispers to me, “Mom, I was right.  It’s bad.”  
Their poor grandma, herself - trying to comprehend what is different about the toy they received and the advertised Skylanders on the wall.   

The woman behind the counter asks me if we are ok.  Stephen says, “Uhm, we are okay, but those two little boys are not okay.  Can you get scissors and can you cut the Skylanders down off from the display?”  

I am intent with Stephen.  I look at the woman behind the counter.  She looks confused.  I wonder if she understands what is happening.  I nudge Stephen to repeat himself louder. 

“Uhm, do you see those boys?  They want those Skylanders (he points to display), but they got this other toy.  This toy is not the Skylanders they thought they were getting.”  “Can you get scissors and cut the ones they want out of the display, since you don’t have them anymore anyway?” 

The woman disappears for a few moments.  She returns with scissors.  She asks Stephen which Skylanders to cut down from the display.  Stephen asks the young boys who are hugging their grandma’s legs with grief… “Hey guys",  Stephen points to the Skylander display and asks the little boys... "Can you tell us the ones you want?"  The little boys release grandma’s legs and potter closer to Stephen.  They look up at him with wonder.  They look to the woman from behind the counter who has scissors.  She is ready to cut down Skylanders. 

All four hands point up.  The Skylanders are identified.  The woman cuts them off of the display, hands them to Stephen.  He thanks her and compassionately hands them off to the young boys. The boys are squealing and are excited.  They are banded once again.

Their grandmother has realized the power of the Happy Meal surprise toy.  She remarks what a beautiful gesture Stephen has offered for her grandsons.  I am proud of Stephen and his Happy Meal negotiation. 

In the car, I asked Stephen, "How did you know to do that?  How did you know to ask the woman to cut it down from the display?"  He nonchalantly replied, "You asked Mc Donald's to do that for me once."  

I am not surprised.  

Happy Meal.  Happy Kid.  Happy Ending.


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