Post # 245 Medicine Ice Cream – A Short Story by Me!

April 25, 2014 at 2:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Medicine Ice Cream

My dad loved ice cream. His mom was like that too, so I suspect his whole family had an unhealthy fondness for the stuff. I like ice cream, sort of. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it. I have to be in exactly the right mood for it, and that seldom happens. But Dad, well, he can eat it 24 hours a day. His mom’s two favorite things were eating ice cream and driving, so her most favorite thing to do was drive to the ice cream parlor. I remember being very young and piling into her car and getting ice cream. My best friend in the whole world also loves ice cream and is about my dad’s age. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

When we kids were in our early teen years we used to make homemade ice cream on the weekends all the time. Mom would cook the mixture; Dad would set up the hand crank; we kids would wait until it was time and then exhaust ourselves turning it and turning it. It always seemed to take forever. We always made vanilla, then added things at the end, like chocolate chips or fruit. I recall once, when we were still living in upper state New York, mom made ice cream out of snow, but I don’t remember that she did but the once. It probably didn’t turn out too well.

Living in the desert like we did, buying ice cream to take home could be problematic. If we’d lived in town, it would be a no brainer. But we lived many miles out of town, about a half hour drive through orange groves and real desert to get to the sub-division where we lived. If mom bought ice cream while grocery shopping, it would be melted by the time she got home. So ice cream had to be bought last and at the last place on the way out of town. It helped if it could be put in a cooler with ice, but not always.

When we first moved to the desert, the closest place to get a milk shake, or any other cold drink, was the truck stop two miles away. My little brother and I and all our friends would walk through the two miles of sand and scrub brush, dodging wasps and lizards, and trying not to get too terribly thirsty in that heat just to get a cold soda or milk shake. Sometimes we would try to hitchhike back to our house, but mostly it was walking back. My mom used to love to tell the story about the time there was a knock at the back door and when she opened it there were two border patrol agents. They had followed our tracks through the desert and wondered if she were harboring illegal aliens.

Then, the truck stop closed down and someone opened a real live grocery store on the lot. It had everything we could ever want or need, and it was only two miles away. The thing that made it tops in my Dad’s book was they made fresh ice cream right there and packaged it in gallon tubs. He could get it home before it melted and enjoy ice cream of all flavors sitting in his own living room in his favorite chair.

My dad is tall and lean. With his perpetual sun burned face and high cheek bones, many people mistook him for an American Indian. It didn’t seem to matter how much he ate, he always stayed lean. I never really saw him exercise or work out, but he was always active. He would eat a full dinner and have seconds and polish those off. Then he’d sit and read the paper, giving me just enough time to clean the kitchen and get all the dishes washed and put away. Then he’d be rooting around, looking for something else to eat. It drove my mom to distraction until she started stocking ice cream.

Dad would eat the stuff right out of the carton so he wouldn’t have to mess up a clean bowl. He’d eat about a third of a gallon and put it away. The next night, he’d eat the next third of a gallon and put it away. The following night, he’d finish off the gallon. Then he’d put the carton down on the floor for the dogs to lick clean. The dogs were always smelling like soured milk from the ice cream that got on their fur and hadn’t been cleaned off. One time, my mom’s dog Bootsie got her head stuck in the carton and kept backing around the living room. Dad got a huge kick out of that.

I never realized that Dad was rationing his ice cream until Nephew and Niece were born. Once they were old enough to ask and to understand that Papa (my dad) was usually a soft touch for anything they wanted, they would ask him for a bite of his ice cream. He almost always said no. He’d share anything else, but his ice cream was precious to him. (*gollum*!)

The kids accepted his no for quite a while, longer than I would have. Then they started asking why not? You could see the wheels turning in his head and finally he said, “This isn’t good for little kids.”

“Yes, it is, Papa.” Nephew replied. He was the oldest so it was up to him to make this one work.

“No, it isn’t.” Dad asserted.

“Why isn’t it, Papa?” Niece stuck her two cents in and when she looked at him with those baby blues I was sure he’d melt faster than his ice cream.

“Well, look around. Do you see anyone else eating it?”

It was true. No one was.

“I have to get rid of it before it spoils.”

It was hard for them to refute that logic so they went away disappointed.

Dad fought the good fight for his ice cream longer than I ever would have. But his most brilliant tactic stumped the kids for a long time.

“But why can’t we have any, Papa?” Nephew was relentless.

“This isn’t for little kids.” Dad always replied. But this time he added, “This is medicine ice cream. It’s good for adults.”

Both the kids breathed an “Ohhhhhh!” of wonder and admiration and left him alone. They knew what medicine was.

That one lasted Dad a long, long time. And the rest of us giggled quietly every time Dad brought out his medicine ice cream. It was usually vanilla.

After that, the kids would ask, “Papa, is that medicine ice cream?”

Most times he’d say yes, but if he was feeling generous he’d say no and give them several bites. Now, don’t get me wrong. Dad wasn’t mean or stingy. He just loved his ice cream. And he knew how angry the kids’ mom would be if he gave them that sugar loaded treat without her permission.

Papa’s medicine ice cream became legendary with those two. I overheard them bragging to their friends about their Papa’s medicine could only be taken with ice cream, and that ice cream couldn’t be given to just anyone. Whenever I gave them a cone or a bowl of ice cream, I had to reassure them that it wasn’t Papa’s medicine ice cream. One time, they made me call him at work to make certain that the ice cream was okay.

The specialness of that ice cream was brought home to me one day. The kids were still very little. Nephew was around 6, so Niece was about 4 or so. It was a normal, nondescript kind of day. Nothing that would stand out in anyone’s memory except for this. The kids were over for dinner and I had made a big pot of spaghetti. It was easy and one of their favorites. I had told them they could have some ice cream after dinner. But when I looked in the freezer, there was only one carton of ice cream and only about two thirds of it was left.

I made a hasty call to Dad and told him to stop on the way home to get some.

When he came in, he was empty handed and as soon as he saw me, he remembered. No one felt like getting out in the heat and getting more, so the ice cream was going to be completely gone after that evening. Dad took it with good grace.

When dinner was over, the kids were itching to get to the ice cream, but they knew that they would have to wait until the kitchen had been cleared, the dishes put away, and order had been restored. So they asked if Papa would play a game with them.

While they were all playing, Mom and I turned to each other as we heard Dad say, “Well, it looks like all we have left is medicine ice cream.”

You could hear the thud from the kids’ faces falling when they heard that. It meant no ice cream, for certain. I’d have looked at those faces and figured out some way to get them some ice cream, but I wondered what my dad was going to do.

Mom had to sit down to laugh silently as we heard Dad say bravely, “So it looks like the three of us will have split it!”

It was like turning on a lamp in those faces. Their eyes lit up; their smiles lit up; and the excitement was palpable.

“When, Papa?” they squealed.

“How about now?”

All three of them trooped out to the kitchen where Mom and I got out of their way. This was obviously a grandpa/grandkids kind of thing.

I listened to their banter as they put their bowls of ice cream together. Dad was trying to convince them that they shouldn’t have too much since it was, after all, medicine ice cream. Judging from the amounts in the bowls, he wasn’t very successful.

The extreme special nature of this event made itself known a few short minutes later. The kids carried their bowls of ice cream to the living room as though they were holding fragile bowls of a miracle elixir. They walked slowly so as not spill a single drop. Halfway to their intended seats near Papa’s chair, Nephew turned to his little sister, his eyes sparkling with excitement.

“Sister! Medicine ice cream!”

I don’t think any bowl of ice cream ever tasted better to them. Probably none ever did from then on.

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