How many of you remember this fine fellow? McDonald's was THE place to go as a kid. I never finished my burger or my fries, barely ever drank my drink, but I got the toy and I worked my butt off on that AstroTurf covered concrete playground.
ALL of the playground equipment was metal. EVERYTHING. I think about today and how children are forced to play in relative safety on grounds made of recycled tires or foam with plastic slides and climbing structures (none too high, mind you, without a safety net). Their biggest threat is a bad static electricity shock.
My biggest threat as a kid was falling to my death on concrete from a towering metal construction.
But I remember this structure like it was yesterday. I loved climbing into his burger head, always squirming out of reach of my parents as they couldn't fit in the tiny hole at the bottom. The lower half of this tower at my McDonald's was swathed in a sheet metal cocoon, discouraging any parents from even attempting to grab their kids.
But I was terrified of his helmet. The very tip top. I glared with envy and awe at those kids brave enough to climb to the top and view their kid-dom before them. An entire playground, viewed from the tallest peak. I remember how my hands did shake and sweat as I attempted to pass the burger jail. I could only imagine my foot slipping out from under me and my collar bone breaking neatly in half, along with my legs as I hit the bottom rungs.
But that day did come, my dear ones. It did come. A summer day, bright and warm, the sun's rays turning each playground piece into an oven or a stove top. Scorched fingers were normal. But I knew what I had to do. I steeled myself as I put my feet on the ladder. And then I climbed. I climbed what felt like forever, until, I had reached that window. I inhaled the clear air of those who have been enlightened. I looked at MY playground. And I laughed at the kids riding the fry horses. How they must wish to be me, in my blue castle tower, shaped like a hamburger man. Yes. I was awesome.
I climbed down that day, convinced I was a childly god. And when I reached my mom and dad, and they presented me with a hot fudge sundae, a commodity among children, a rare event that happened once a year, I nearly wept with joy.
Ice cream and fudge never tasted sweeter...