It was 7:00 a.m. and I hadn’t slept in 32 hours.
We’d decided not to sleep the night of our 3:15 a.m. shuttle pick-up for our flight to Ohio on Christmas Eve.
“Yeah we’ll stay up like rebels and it’ll be fun” was my thought around 12:00 a.m.
“Yeah we decided not to sleep like idiots and I want to die” was my thought at 7:00 a.m.
We had a layover in Denver, Colorado just as the sun began to rise on the morning of Christmas Eve. I stumbled off the plane like a frat guy the morning after a toga party. Or five. We had an hour before our connecting flight to Ohio where the promise of a fireplace and snowflake shaped sugar cookies and a white Christmas kept my hopes up. I dragged my debilitated body over to the food court.
There were lots of kids. Happy, loud kids with Christmas -y smiles which turned me into a scowling Miss Havisham, wanting nothing but darkness and quiet.
I wanted coffee. And I wanted food. Rational, health minded Jamie would naturally have sniffed out a place that served oatmeal or granola. But this foul – faced, sleepless creature that stumbled into the airport food court wanted grease. Greasy food makes sense when your hungry, haven’t slept, and need something legal to self medicate with when surrounded by obnoxious children. Children who’ve appeared to have all taken an overdose of Ritalin.
But then I remember it’s Christmas Eve. And I’m not Miss Havisham and I should be happy, too.
And there it was: the golden arches of guilt and shame that is ‘McDonald’s.
I wanted it.
As a kid, mom would treat me to my favorite McDonald’s breakfast on Saturday mornings after “garage sale – ing” around our neighborhoods. It was our early morning “me and mom” breakfast. Our favorite was the Egg and Cheese McMuffin. Just a silly, simple little breakfast which came with a crispy hash brown and ketchup. It lacked the fanciness of pancakes and waffles or the decadence of a restaurant omelet. But it was good.
I wasn’t a vegetarian as a child so I ate the bacon.
Now I consider myself to be an “ethical eater” in terms of avoiding meat that comes from factory farms or CAFOs. So I told the bubbly little high school girl behind the counter I’d have the “Egg Mcmuffin without bacon, please.”
She swipes my Visa and smiles. I smile back. It was the first time I smiled in 7 hours. She then hands me a warm, crumply paper bag which smells like buttery salvation. “You’re a doll” I think to myself. The spirit of Miss Havisham has been lifted from me.
I sit down and tear away the yellow wrapping of my beloved breakfast sandwich. It had been a while since we’d seen one another. Maybe 7 years?
It’s a sin to eat McDonald’s with a guilty conscious while you’re in the restaurant (after you’ve done the damage you’re allowed to feel guilty). So I took my first bite and felt like I was eight years old again on a Saturday morning, sharing a “me and mom” breakfast in the front seat of our old family cadillac. Two bites in and I realized this was the best dietary decision I’ve ever made. Dr. Oz would surely disapprove.
I could taste the hot butter soaked into the biscuit dough above the gooey cheese and the pillowy egg in the middle.
Fifteen minutes later we were ready to board our plane to Ohio to meet our family for Christmas Eve.
My stomach spewed many choice words at me in its greasy misery as we walked to our seats. But I didn’t regret it (entirely).
I realize I kind of have a thing for Egg and cheese breakfast biscuits. I could eat one every day and never grow tired of them. When we came home from our Christmas vacation I went to the store and bought a bag of frozen Pillsbury Southern Style Biscuits. And eggs. And cheese. We’ve been back for a week and a half and I’ve eaten 6 or 7 of them.
As a matter of fact I had one for lunch today. And I’m not sure if it really is the flaky biscuit and fluffy egg that I love or how I can now connect two special memories to this silly little “sandwich.”
Those Saturday morning just “me and mom” breakfasts and a sleepless trip to an airport on Christmas Eve when I indulged in a greasy McMuffin to soothe my sluggish spirit.
That’s why I love food. You know it’s good when you love it as a kid, stop eating it, and eat for the first time years later and love it even more.
And it tastes even better when you’ve prepared it yourself. And had at least six hours of sleep.
It isn’t pretty, but a hungry Miss Havisham hardly cares about looks.