Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cow Appreciation Day

As a parent, I occasionally find myself reflecting on traditions. What brought on our traditions? Who share them with us? Which ones are worthy of passing along to you?


Now this is going to sound very silly, but Chick-Fil-A holds a great deal of sentimental value to me. I mean it! Before I moved to Atlanta, I didn't know much about this town. I knew it was where we (the Gators) played football games sometimes if we were good, and I knew there was a good aquarium here. But mostly when I thought of Atlanta, I thought of Coke and Chick-Fil-A. I think that's what most people think of when they think of Atlanta, actually. When I finally did move here, I felt strange in a new place that I didn't know. I didn't know how to fit in, I definitely didn't understand the traffic patterns, and I had no idea where to eat. But I knew I was never too far from a Chick-Fil-A, and that was something that could always feel familiar.

I was relieved to find people who felt the same way. My grad school friends, Erin, Emily H., Emily B., and Christina, were also big fans of eating more chicken. "Chick-Fil-A Test Day" quickly became a beloved tradition, in which we would treat ourselves (remember, we didn't have a lot of money back then) to a delicious meal after a test. Usually we went to the dining hall on campus, but if we were feeling really adventurous, we'd wander off to the Chick-Fil-A on North Druid and Briarcliff or the one on Trinity in Decatur.

A few weeks into grad school, we learned that Chick-Fil-A holds a special event every July called Cow Appreciation Day. On this day, if you dress like a cow, you are given anything on the menu FOR FREE. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you how we were broke grad students who had -$300,000 to our names because we were busy becoming doctors. This wasn't just a free sandwich or a free Coke; we could have an entire meal free of charge just for doing something that sounded fun anyway. Those girls and I had only been friends for less than a month, but we unanimously decided to prioritize this event in our busy schedules. And we went ALL OUT.

I was so excited to get free food, but I was more excited to have found people in a new place who understood me. They understood the need to make fools of ourselves and to have fun. They understood the need to participate in something silly with all our hearts, rather than just phoning it in. On Chick-Fil-A Test Days, they understood the need to blow off some steam and how important it was to heavily debate which condiment was better rather than discuss how we thought we did on our exams. On that first Cow Appreciation Day, I knew a tradition was born. I knew we'd be back every year, at least while we were in school together. But more importantly, I knew I had made life-long friends. I didn't know the depth that our friendships would gain. I didn't know that we'd be in each others' weddings, that we'd cry with each other about love and loss and change. I didn't know that we'd give each other mom tips in just a few years and sit next to each other in the back seat of a car pumping after a night out while the babies stayed at home with their dads.

I haven't really participated in Cow Appreciation Day in the past couple of years. It's just not the same now that I'm the only one of these friends left in Atlanta. But this year, I decided spontaneously to pick up some black posterboard on my way to pick you up from daycare, and I decided we'd participate at the last minute.

You love Chick-Fil-A, and even at only a year and a halfish, you understood the significance of being silly. You scarfed down your free grilled nuggets and fruit cup, and I think you enjoyed your free meal even more than the ones Mommy pays for. But most importantly, you mooed at everyone who walked by us.

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