While some families like to go caroling in their neighborhood, and others like to drive around their town looking at lights, we have “French Fry Candy Night” when we take our kids out for the evening, feed them junk food and pay them to do embarrassing things.
You might be wondering how such a silly tradition came to be. Grab a french fry and I’ll tell you.
It was a Sunday in December, 2000 and we’d had a rain storm all weekend. The kids, aged 6, 7 and 9, were driving me and their dad bonkers; the fighting and the whining and the crying and the bickering. It had been a long weekend and we all needed to get out of the house.
We piled in the car and drove to Sonoma. By the time we arrived, the rain and wind had kicked up. We ran to the nearest business, a Mexican restaurant complete with a jukebox. Thrilled to be out of the house, we ordered a round of sodas for the kids and margaritas for the adults. We ate nachos, listened to music and watched Tori, the first grader, dance and sing. At 2:00 p.m. on a rainy Sunday, we had the place to ourselves.
After we wore out our welcome, we braved the weather and walked around the town until we came upon a candy store – a candy store you dream about going to as a child. We allowed each kid $5.00 to spend on whatever they wanted. It took 15 minutes for them to select their candy, followed by five luxurious minutes of quiet while they inhaled it.
We continued walking around the square, gazing at the holiday decorations and colorful lights and buying a few gifts before we realized we were hungry again. It was getting close to dinner time and I mentioned heading home to eat.
The sad and downtrodden looks on my stepkids’ faces were enough to make me rethink that idea. And I wasn’t particularly jumping up and down to go home and cook. Suddenly, it seemed like a much better idea to go to Murphy’s Irish Pub and order some french fries.
Midway through our three baskets of fries, Ryan said, “This was the best day ever. Nachos, candy and french fries: I wish we could eat like this everyday. Why can’t we?”
I launched into the 1001 reasons why a 7-year-old should not “eat like this everyday”, then I had an idea: Why not eat like this one day a year? I asked the kids if they would like that and their faces lit up. We planned on returning to do the very same thing the following December.
A family tradition was born that night and we named it “Nachos, French Fries and Candy Night” which was too wordy, so we shortened it to “French Fry Candy Night”.
We are on our 11th year of this tradition, having only missed it once last year, when we were feeling too bah humbuggish.
|December, 2005. Those are not Kayla’s real teeth.|
French Fry Candy Night has changed over the years. When the kids got a little older, we made them earn their candy money. We had Kayla, who wore braces at the time, put a chunk of cilantro on her front teeth and ask the hostess where the restroom was for a dollar.
For a couple of dollars, Tori danced around the walkway in front of Murphy’s for one minute singing, “Go Santa, Go Santa” and doing the old school hip-hop move known as ‘driving the bus’.
And we offered Ryan five big bucks to eat a slice of canned jalapeno but he never would. So, of course, we caved and bought him candy anyway. I mean, how can you deny candy to this boy?
This year, they are 17, 18, and 20. They’ll probably get bored with us and text their friends all night, but it will still be a fun evening. I look forward to one day having their spouses and children come along. And perhaps Bill’s kids will continue this odd tradition in their own families or create one of their own.
|Family photo, 2005|
We are having our French Fry, Candy Night soon…real soon. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it next week.