She was girly-cute: about four or five years old with a flowery summer shirt, sparkly silver slip-on tennis shoes and thick bright red hair pulled back into a tight braid. She chanted quietly to herself while waiting for, "pancakes, hash browns and sausage." (She loved them.)
Kicking her feet in the air beneath the McDonald's bench seat, she fiddled and played with a purple-haired doll that had a sleeping mask and striped clothes.
Her tattoo-covered mother provided stark contrast to the chubby-cheeked little girl in pink flowers. From her black "skater" tennis shoes to her severe bun, she was the exact opposite of the girl. Both wore black shorts, but the Mama wore a baggy white tee-shirt embellished by symbols of death and skeletons. The girl wore flowered earrings and Mama sported a stud in her lower lip.
In spite of their disparate appearance, the girl was pleasant and happy, chattering over her carefully cut pancakes. She eventually ran off on a mission to get two tubs of butter from the lady at the counter.
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A little boy dashed around the corner and to my right. He was as carefully dressed as the flowery girl, wearing denim overalls and a striped shirt. He slid into a two-person booth and waited for his mother to return from the drink machine nearby.
His was the impatient wait of a 3-year-old, punctuated by a whine as he loudly shouted that he wanted food. Whatever calm might be found in a Mickey-D's was broken for a short while as Mama shouted at her boy. "I asked you if you wanted anything to eat and you said you didn't want any food!"
His whine climbed in volume, octave and intensity; his stylishly, expensively-dressed mother's growing frustration was evident as she continued to try to over-shout him, reminding him that he said he didn't want anything. Several minutes passed in an unbroken verbal struggle before she threw out, "I'm getting you pancakes! Hang on a minute!"
Patience, silence, warmth continued in front of me. The mother-daughter pair laughing together at a joke and talking about their breakfasts. The boy sitting behind me finally grew quiet, and the pair did not speak. He sat in silence, without interaction, while Mama's manicured nails tapped out messages on her cell phone.