If you need me, I’ll be back in 1992, because apparently I haven’t gotten out much since then anyway.
My daughter has been participating in the “Book It” program and recently earned her first free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. As I drove her to the nearest location to redeem her coupon, I had planned on dining in, enjoying a booth made cozy with low lighting and a checkered tablecloth. I was certain my daughter would be impressed by the silverware wrapped elegantly in cloth napkins and perhaps she’d choose to flavor her pie with parmesan cheese from the bulbous shakers on the table. All week, I looked forward to watching her reap the benefits of reaching the reading goals that she had set out to conquer.
I thought it would be…special. Just the way I remembered it. Because back in my day, Pizza Hut was the fancy restaurant in town, and an experience primarily reserved for well-to-do families. Scoring a free Pizza Hut pizza through the “Book It” program was a highlight of my childhood, as it allowed me a peek into a lifestyle that was just out of reach.
But I should have known something was amiss when there was no oversized “Book It” button to accompany the wrinkled paper coupon that came home in my daughter’s folder. I should have known that there had been cut-backs.
As we strolled through the door of the “restaurant” I was sorely disappointed. There were no brick walls, no stained glass, no candles or curtains – there were no cozy booths or tables. There was, well, nothing more than a counter and a refrigerator full of 2-liter bottles of pop.
I was stunned. I really was. Because I am just so naive, uninformed. I really do forget about how much the world has changed since I was a child, I guess because it doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago.
I was disappointed that the experience wasn’t really an experience at all. And that my children will never be given a glimpse into some of my most precious childhood memories.
But my daughter? Well, she proudly carried her miniature box of pizza out to the car, her gaze pointed down at the greasy cardboard and exclaimed “I can’t believe I get my very own pizza!” And later, she bragged to her daddy about her free pizza and declared it “the best pizza ever.”
Gone are the glory days of my childhood, where a fine dining experience could be found in a pizza joint. But to my child, there is still plenty of glory in a free, steaming hot, personal pan pizza.