Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Day The Ice Cream Didn't Melt

Yesterday I mentioned several things I want to blog about, but I'm not going to write about any of those yet, because I remembered another thing that is on my list.

Over at My Ice Cream Diary, there is a contest going on. Post a story of a favorite food experience by February 28, and you will have a chance to win a gift certificate to an online candy store.

I definitely want to put in my bid, so here's my story.

Most summers our family likes to take a day to go to the Platte River. It flows from west to east across the midsection of Nebraska, headed for the Missouri River. Most of the year it runs slow and low; it's usually ankle to knee deep. In some places it's only a bed of sand, although they say when it's that dry the river still runs under the sand.

When the kids were much younger, we liked to go in late summer, when the river was only ankle deep, because it was like a giant wading pool. It was fun to play in-- you could splash, and build sand empires, and float-- with very little danger, which made it much more restful for mom and dad as lifeguards.

Usually on these excursions I'd pack up some sort of "snackage" as Hubby says, maybe sandwiches, or granola bars, or-- if we were feeling energetic-- a full campfire menu of hot dogs and marshmallows.

One year we'll always remember. It was a Sunday afternoon. We had gone to church in the morning, and there was no evening service, so right after Sunday dinner, we packed up our swim gear and our snackage, and a thermos of water, and headed out.

It took about an hour to drive to the little park that has river access. We swam, and played, and hiked around the river island, and got mosquito-bit, and sunburned, and tired. Close to sunset we decided we were ready to go home. By then we were hungry. I mean HUNGRY. The kind of hungry you get when you've been playing in the water for a long hot afternoon. There really ought to be a separate word for that kind of hungry. It's the kind of hungry that when I was a child made me eat a full-size candy bar and an entire 16 oz bottle of pop in one sitting, and then go eat a huge plateful of supper.

So there we were, with four of those kid-size outdoor appetites, which by nature are double the adult-size outdoor appetites-- and there were two of those. The snackage was long gone, and it was an hour drive till home. The kids were sure they would faint from hunger before we got there, or maybe start gnawing on the van curtains. And I wasn't sure but maybe I'd join them.

Hubby and I thought through our choices and tried to pull up mental maps of the countryside, asking ourselves, "Where's the nearest town?" Once we figured that out, we headed straight there in the hopes of finding something open. Because out here in the boodocks, there's no guarantee. I know in our tiny hometown, NOTHING is open on Sunday.

The first town we drove through had nothing(literally-- no grocery store or convenience store of any kind), so we drove on, a few miles out of our way, to a larger town. We drove around, and JACKPOT! A grocery store! And it was open!

Now, I don't know what you would have bought in that circumstance. From this perspective something tells me we should have bought bread and peanut butter. (Oh but then we would have needed something to spread peanut butter with. Okay, maybe we could have bought crackers and cheese.)

But for some reason, on that very hot day, after driving around in an un-airconditioned van, we headed straight for the ice cream section, and here's what we got:

(Of course, I don't remember if this was the actual brand we bought. Probably not, since it says "New England's Favorite" on it, and we don't live anywhere NEAR New England.)

But notice one little thing, there in the corner. Do you see it? It says "12 pack." We would have bought a box of six, but the store didn't have any, and we had our heart set on ice cream sandwiches. But that created a problem. Think. Six people. HOT August day. No air conditioning. A long drive. If we each ate one, that would still leave six in the box. How would we get the other six home?

We almost gave up the idea, but then Hubby had an inspiration.

The kids were electrified when Hubby and I climbed into the van with our booty, and announced, "You each HAVE to eat TWO of these! Before we get home!"

If there was ever rejoicing and thanksgiving and myriad sounds of hungry animals, it was then.

Because those were the days of hand-me-downs and thrift store shopping; when a family excursion was going to the library or to the river (we couldn't afford something you had to pay for.) Ice cream sandwiches were a once-a-summer treat, and even then, you only got HALF a sandwich, to make them last longer. (I'm serious: we cut them in half. That way, a box of six would go around twice.)

So on that day, to HAVE to eat TWO WHOLE ice cream sandwiches was unheard of luxury. It was paradise, or maybe heaven.

That was probably 15 years ago. But the kids still remember; it's one of our favorite family memories.


My Ice Cream Diary said...

This reminds me of my childhood, when anything store bought or anything containing sugar was so special. Thanks for entering the contest!

Lulu said...

This was a great story!! I'm going to have to click over to My Ice Cream Diary to see if you won!!

BTW - ice cream sandwiches are the bomb!

Kim said...

Mmmmmmmmmm... I do love me some ice cream sandwiches!!! I actually got all excited when I read the words "platte river"... I grew up in Nebraska, so I have tromped across the sandy beds of the Platte myself. It was a fun place! I live a state lower now but still have family up there.

Kim @ TheBitterBall