As I mentioned, I’ve been negligent in my homeowner duties, I have no groceries. I’ve been piecing together food for about a week, I’m tapped. Last night, driving home, I gave in and stopped at Burger King. I’m not even particularly a fan of BK, but it is on the way home.
I ordered a value meal, and right now, they are offering a free ice cream cone with any value meal purchase. Ok. So I get my meal and they hand me a vanilla soft-serve cone. Vanilla. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a vanilla cone.
I didn’t know what to do with it, it’s not like I could set it down while driving. So, I decided to do as my Gramma always suggested and eat dessert first. I took one lick of that cone and was blown away. I haven’t had a soft-serve cone in probably…I don’t know. Maybe high school? Before? I stopped doing cones years ago. I prefer malts when I’m at a McDonalds or BK, or real ice cream, or Culver’s frozen custard. But soft-serve? And if I were to have some, I for sure wouldn’t have vanilla.
As I licked the cone, a million memories came flooding into my mind. The taste of the soft-serve, the texture. The feel of the cone in my hand (those generic sugar cones that taste like cardboard). It was all so familiar and it tasted like childhood. It tasted like riding a bike with one hand and licking a cone with the other. It tasted like rare trips to McDonalds by Lake Phalen. It tasted like summer. It tasted like my grandparents and special treats. It tasted like Shasta.
I was eating this cone, driving home, and I was remembering a thousand little moments that I might have forgotten, otherwise. I remembered my mom’s parents and how her mother used to always give us dessert. I remembered how we’d go to their house and they’d take us to Subway and my grandpa would order the meatball sub. I remembered my dad’s parents and how my grandpa used to go to McDonalds just to get ice cream. I remembered how my grandma always had candy and that they kept pop in their root cellar and we thought it was scary, but we’d brave it for a can of pop. They always had Dad’s rootbeer and I think that is why I love it so much. I remembered how when we were kids we hardly ever got to have pop, but sometimes my mom would buy a case of Shasta, because it was cheap and if we were very lucky we got to pick out a few cans of our favorite flavors (cause Shasta was a mix and match pop) and I loved the black cherry the best and my mom used to charge us a quarter per can. She must have made bank because Shasta was super cheap. I remembered how when we were kids sometimes we’d have ice cream. Mom would buy a gallon of ice cream at the store. Usually is was Neapolitan, three flavors in one, but sometimes Cookies and Cream, and a few times, Chocolate Marshmallow, which is still my favorite, to this day, but it is almost impossible to find. In the summer, she would by those rainbow cones, remember those?
And they were “flavored” except they still all tasted like cardboard. But it was exciting to pick out the cone flavor. And my brothers would take huge scoops and pile it as high as they could. And I would take small scoops and pack it down, all the way to the bottom of the cone. I used to love that even with the last bite, I’d still get a good mix of ice cream with my cone. I don’t know what Emily did. She was small then, she probably took whatever mom gave her.
When I got to the bottom of my BK soft-serve, I grinned to find they piped it all the way to the bottom.
I remembered how sometimes, on very special occasions, we’d get Dairy Queen. Dad would usually go, while mom waited at home with us kids. He’d come home with a huge bag of dilly bars. Didn’t matter if I desperately wanted to try a Blizzard or really anything else at all, we all ate Dilly bars.
Then that made me think of the A&W rootbeer out in Oakdale and how we got to go there a couple times and have “real” rootbeer at a drive in. Then I remembered, Jerry’s Drive-in. It used to be on White Bear Avenue, and they had the best onion rings ever. I don’t even really remember the onion rings, I was pretty young when they closed, but I remember, clearly, how my parents loved those onion rings and no matter what we got there, there was ALWAYS a huge order of rings to share.
While I was doing all this thinking I accidentally bit into the cone and got a mild case of brain freeze. Then I remembered a slumber party I had when I was young, I think it was at Amy Reasoner’s house, she grew up just down the street from Kelly. Anyway, I remember we were eating ice cream and trying to get brain freeze. Kids are so dumb. And then I thought about how my mom has always been able to bite into ice cream or frozen treats with her front teeth. I can get brain freeze just watching her.
As I pulled into my garage, finishing the last few bites of that cone, I thought how remarkable it was. I experienced memories I haven’t touched on in years. Some were half-forgotten and others were just dormant, waiting for a spark to ignite them. They say it is scent that carries the strongest memories. For me, last night, it was taste and texture, long forgotten remnants of the joys of childhood.
I guess vanilla isn’t that bad after all.