Mama counted the money in her purse. I watched as she pulled out all the receipts, trying to find the few coins that would make it possible. I was six that day, and all I wanted for my birthday was McDonalds. We were still at home, and I carefully kept my eyes on her fingers as she laid the coins out on the table.
Bouncing in my raggedy tennis shoes that were a size too small, I waited and waited as she slid each coin from one side of the table to the next. She counted in her head and then dumped out more coins, not even stopping to create piles as she just continued to count. Mama rubbed her lips together and glanced at me before nodding.
“Are you ready, Pumpkin?”
“Yes!” I shouted and jumped up and down.
I ran for the door, twisting the handle until it opened and racing for the stairs leading out of our apartment. Mama locked the door behind me as I bounded around the corner to our blue little car. I pulled open the front door and crawled into my pink power ranger chair that I used as a booster seat. Mama made her way to the car and started the engine; I could barely contain my excitement.
“McDonalds! McDonalds! McDonalds!” I started to chant as she drove down the curved path of the parking lot and to the street.
Mama took a quick left and then a right at the light, and I pointed to the house on the corner of the street. She looked at where my finger was aimed and smiled at me.
“That’s the crab apple house,” I said.
“Yup,” Mama replied.
I grinned and then started to look at the buildings we passed: the bank, the street to Albertson’s where Mary would give me a free donut in the mornings before church, and the road to McDonalds. Mama turned, and we waited as the light changed.
The smell hit me first. I smiled as the sweet scent of burgers and fries wafted to me as I sat in the front seat of the car, waiting for my perfect birthday dinner. Mama pulled up to the next light and finally I could see the golden arches of our destination. I started to bounce in my chair and kick my feet against the dash as we got closer.
Mama pulled up and went into the drive-thru lane. I pursed my lips and started to pout, crossing my arms over my chest and looking down at my knees.
“Why can’t we go in?”
“I have to get back to work, Pumpkin.”
I didn’t answer her because we had pulled up to the ordering microphone. Mama talked to the person at the other end and ordered what we always got: the two cheeseburger meal with only ketchup and a diet coke. We always shared the meal, each getting a burger to ourselves and putting fries on it to make it seem more filling and taste better.
Mama pulled up to the one window and held out her hand with the dirty coins and crumpled dollar bills. The girl dressed in the McDonalds uniform leaned out the window and smiled, waving at me. I waved back and kicked the dash again as we waited.
“You don’t owe anything, ma’am.”
“What?” Mama said. She sounded surprised.
“The person in front of you paid for your meal along with his. He said it was a pay it forward thing.”
Mama glanced at me after looking out the front of her window, but whoever it was had long gone by then. Mama held out her hand again and waited until the McDonalds girl reached for it.
“Use this for whoever comes up next and tell them to pay it forward.”
Welcome to the Creative Buzz Hop. Each week there is a new theme and you have one week to write on it. This week’s theme was “Paying it Forward,” something my mama taught me from a very young age. If you would like to participate, write up a blog post about paying it forward. It can be a short story, a poem, thoughts on the matter (or hell, even a review of the movie, which is AMAZING). Then go to our wonderful hosts page and link it up with everyone else’s. Enjoy your reading!