A Catholic Monthly Magazine

In Praise of Ice Cream

Anne Kerrigan

Anne Kerrigan

You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream and that’s kind of the same thing. American adagekerrigan-dinneratsheilas-com

Summer means it is officially ice cream season. I cannot recall when I didn’t love ice cream. When I was young, and growing up in a small apartment in the Bronx, freezers were non-existent. The kitchen was small, as was the refrigerator. The refrigerator had a very small freezer compartment which held two ice cube trays, nothing else. So, if you wanted ice cream, it had to be purchased at a local store, usually an ice cream parlour, and it had to be eaten right away. There were no ice cream trucks patrolling the streets in those days. Actually, there were not even many flavours available at that time, and I am sure that the lack of freezers contributed to that limitation. In today’s world, freezers abound and there are zillions of ice cream flavours available.

One of my fondest youthful memories was the bi-weekly ice cream soda night. My father was paid every two weeks, and on pay-day he would come home with a large bottle of cream soda and a container of vanilla ice cream. My siblings and I made ice cream sodas, all fizzy and frothy, and they were so delicious. I can still vividly recall the bubbly sound that erupted when the ice cream mixed with the carbonated cream soda. Heaven! It was a marvellous treat, and the whole family looked forward to that bi-weekly feast. That was probably the beginning of my love affair with ice cream.

Photo: Ethical Ice Cream

Photo: Ethical Ice Cream

In the 1950s, when I was a young teenager, my two maiden aunts, who lived just a few blocks away, purchased a new refrigerator with a large freezer compartment. It seemed to fill the kitchen. This was considered a luxury purchase, and the whole family was very excited. In addition to the excitement about this new purchase, we were excited about the possibility of a lot of ice cream. You see, Aunt Kitty also had a sweet tooth and a love affair with ice cream. These attributes appear to be genetic traits! I suspect that everyone in the family had that ice cream gene.

Sure enough, whenever we visited my aunts, they would immediately take out the special tall silver ice cream dishes, ideal for home-made ice cream sundaes. We would then have a feast of mounds of ice cream, whipped cream, syrup, and a cherry on top. Oh, we were so spoiled! Every time we visited my aunts, there were ice cream treats. I was fortunate enough to be one of the oldest of the nieces and nephews, so Aunt Kitty always slipped me an extra scoop. ‘Come here,’ she would whisper. ‘Give me that dish. I have more ice cream for you.’ Even when my own children were young, and we celebrated holidays at my aunts’, the ice cream appeared. All those delicious treats remain a special memory for me. As an adult, I try to keep my sweet tooth in check, but it is not easy!

Now, fast forward many years. My husband and I had been visiting my mother, a widow, at her home in upstate New York. One sunny summer afternoon, as we were sitting on the patio, she brought out a tray with multiple ice cream cartons and the trappings needed for luscious sundaes. As she went about putting those delights together, we noticed that she had been preparing four treats instead of the three needed. When I brought that to her attention, she said, ‘The extra one is for the dog. I make sundaes every night, one for him and one for me. We both love it.’ We had noticed that the elderly dog had been gaining weight! ‘What’s the harm?’, mom said. ‘We are both old and alone, and we enjoy the extravagance every night.’ How does one argue with that reasoning?

kerrigan-pic-3Now, fast forward a few more years. My mother had just moved to Florida. She was only there a short time when she experienced a major heart attack and passed away. It was sudden, and the whole family was in shock. I was the eldest of seven children, and so I was the one to fly to Florida to oversee anything that needed to be done. A younger sister had been with my mother, so she and I hoped to take care of the necessary paperwork and details. This whole situation was so unexpected that none of us had yet internalised the tragedy. We walked and talked in a fog, while trying to deal with the priorities.

Then, one evening, we realised that we had to take a personal break in order to renew our psychic energy. As we started to prepare dinner, I opened the freezer to see what was available. There, staring at me, were about four half gallons of luscious ice cream, all different flavours. I was stunned. You know, with all the demands of addressing a sudden death, there had been no time to grieve, to mourn or to even cry. There were too many issues to be attended to and dealt with. But, the spectacle of all that ice cream brought so many wonderful memories flooding back to me, as clear as if they all had occurred the day before. The sight of all those cartons lined up in the freezer overwhelmed me with love, sadness and gratitude. Oh, how I cried!

Thank you, God, for the gift of memory and for the gift of ice cream.

Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.
Don Kardong, 1948 -- American Olympic runner, journalist and author

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