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Dear McDonald’s,

Happy Birthday! Don’t be mad, but I didn’t get you anything. It’s not that 56 isn’t a big important milestone. It means you’re old enough to retire! (something to consider?)

One of the first birthday parties I ever went to was at a McDonald’s. It was Tiffany’s party, on the lower level of a Manhattan McDonald’s. We had balloons on the backs of our chairs, and were served ice cream cake at the end.

It wasn’t my first time in a McDonald’s though. I grew up across the street from you and one of my first foods was a McD’s french fry. I loved the little paper bag they came in, how it became translucent with fryer grease as I slowly made my way through the bag. I loved the chairs and how they swiveled on their axes, allowing me to spin half way around and back again, bopping my head from side to side and sucking on a fry like it was a lollipop.

This was in 1978 or so, when you were a young 23 year-old company, and just beginning your world travels. I gotta say, it was kind of a genius move, McDonald’s, inviting little kids in for parties, inscribing McD’s into our earliest memories of celebration. You lured me in with Happy Meals (it’s true! They make you happy!); kept me occupied with plastic toys; left me grinning with each sweet/salty/greasy bite. Left me so hungry for McDonald’s I sought you out on family vacation to France.

I must confess, though, that something happened to me. You probably didn’t notice and I can’t say exactly how or why it happened, but I stopped spending birthdays with you. I haven’t even visited for so much as a large fries in what might be close to 20 years. And not to get you really p.o’d but it’s not that I don’t eat french fries, it’s just that I don’t eat them with you.

But enough about me—this is about you! You’ve come a long way since opening that first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois. And while I’m not sorry that we’ve parted ways over the years, I figured I’d take a moment to say “Happy Birthday” McDonald’s—hope you get to eat an apple pie in celebration (baked, these days, not fried).