In this age full of distractions, it is easy to feel an absence of being. While the sun sets with a pink hue outside the window, an entire day has gone by staring at a computer screen. Tomorrow seems the same as yesterday, and life’s progress appears stagnant. I have tried to recount pivotal moments in my life, but day-to-day episodes are identical. It is difficult to spot differences when living in a society designed around routine. But there is one golden treasure present in the few defining moments of my life — McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.
The first memory of Chicken McNuggets I have is when I waddled through the infamous yellow “M” doors with my mom at the age of 5. As I entered the restaurant, I became lost within a crowd of strangers and held onto my mother’s hand for dear life as I navigated through countless legs. The smell of grease invaded my nostrils, while strangers’ voices blurred in my ears. As I tried to process this overload of senses, my mom led me to a small plastic table in the corner of the restaurant. She presented me with a box of six golden Chicken McNuggets, along with three dips — barbecue, sweet ‘n’ sour and honey mustard. I picked up a nugget with my innocent fingers and took a bite. An orgasm of oil burst in my mouth while the soft chicken melted full flavor onto my tongue. I quickly went for a second bite and took turns dipping into each sauce. Within minutes, I was left with greasy fingers and an empty box. I looked up, and my mother smiled at me. I asked her if we could come again tomorrow, and she replied, “Of course.”
My second memory was a couple of years later, when I found myself walking through the same doors without my mother’s comforting presence. Instead, I stood waiting in line with a group of friends. I had a hard time focusing on the conversation because I was too nervous thinking about how to order for the first time. My friends seemed to order with ease, while I anxiously repeated what to say in my mind, folding and unfolding the $20 bill my mother had given me. I finally mumbled my order of Chicken McNuggets, and the lady asked if I would like any dipping sauces with the order. I secretly wanted all three, but I didn’t want to look needy, so I settled for the honey mustard. As I ordered, I had never felt so alone and vulnerable. Independence was not an achievement but rather an emptiness. Nobody was there to celebrate my growth; the only reward I received was the cashier’s vacant smile and a colorless receipt. Within a few minutes, I received my order and felt a little comfort after taking a bite. The taste reminded me that I was not too far away from home.
My most recent memory dates back to this past summer. After attending a music festival in Germany, I had two connecting flights back to Korea. During my first flight, I drank four glasses of wine on an empty stomach and couldn’t really think straight. While waiting for my next flight, I saw a McDonald’s near my gate and knew I wanted Chicken McNuggets. I mumbled a combination of English and German to the cashier with a lot of pointing at the menu, and I somehow received a pack of Chicken McNuggets with all three dipping sauces. The alcohol made me feel relaxed, but my mind was stuck in a trance. How did I end up traveling alone in a foreign country? When was the last time I saw my parents? I sat in a corner table, and tears began to flow. I put a golden nugget into my mouth to stop the tears, but the taste of childhood only triggered the nostalgia. I burst into a loud sob, and people looked at me with pity. I didn’t come to my senses until an announcement called out my name for the final boarding call. I ran to the gate with a pack of half-eaten nuggets in one hand and barbecue sauce in the other. At least my mother would be proud that I had had the courage to order all three sauces this time.
No one really seems to knows what’s inside a Chicken McNugget, except for the fact that McDonald’s states they are “cooked to a golden perfection.” They are the forbidden fruit of the modern world. I know I should not eat them, but my desires and curiosity simply take over — there is no escape. Although it seems pathetic that I associate my memories and growth with a piece of fried meat, there is no rule that says life has to be defined by greater feats and accomplishments. Trivialities define character, and meaning can be found in the most modest memories.
A new chapter begins without notice. Whether you are as passionate about Chicken McNuggets as I am or associate yourself with similar small memories, remnants of these experiences will always remain important. Maybe someday you will watch your children eat a pack of Chicken McNuggets for the first time and see their eyes glisten, anticipating the excitement of their future adventures.