I went to a party today, and had too many hamburgers. They were nothing like the picture above. They were the smallish homemade burgers that remind me of burgers at Stuckey’s. I’ve no idea what burgers are like these days at Stuckey’s, but back in the day (the 1980s), burgers at Stuckey’s were small and oddly tasty to me when I was a child.
As I bit into the first burger at today’s party I was instantly transported to that very abbreviated time in my family when things were okay. I wouldn’t say they were great, but they were okay and certainly tolerable. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of the few childhood memories I recall so well.
The discovery of Stuckey’s occurred on a car trip from the Southwestern United States all the way to the Northeast. We were on a month long car trip to visit my stepfather’s family. Stuckey’s burgers were exciting for me and my sisters because we had never known a life of eating out. A cooler full of Sunkist soda and Big Red was a boon for us as well. We felt rich, and carefree with all these new conveniences and treats in our lives.
Then there were hotel rooms! Who knew such a thing existed? All of us piled into one hotel room with a rollaway bed for me. It was pure fun, even with my sisters stepping over me in the rollaway to get to the bathroom. It was like we finally stepped in the realm of Middle Class America.
Stuckey’s burgers were cheap, and my parents would buy them by the bagful for us. To go from a life of true hunger to having a bagful of burgers on demand was mind blowing at times. It’s amazing that a bagful of burgers and a cooler of soda can make a child feel like they’ve arrived in life. We learned all the Beach Boys songs and listened to them ad naseum, but it was an ideal soundtrack for that summer trip. It’s wasn’t a beach summer by any means, and we came nowhere near California. But the cheery cheesy songs were fitting to the dreamy and jubilant experience.
For the first time in our lives we had some consistency. If we stopped at Stuckey’s we knew we were getting burgers. The cooler always had soda. In the hotel room I always slept on the rollaway bed, and Beach Boys tapes were all we listened to in the car. We had never had any consistency of any kind, and innocuous things such as this made me and my sisters feel an odd sense of safety and stability that we never knew before that trip.
The dark period in our family started up again later after that summer, but during that trip all was mostly well. And just as I never wanted that period to end, I didn’t want the memory to end today. I wanted to hold on to it, so I kept eating burgers.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)