Friday, June 15, 2007

Eating. ice cream sandwiches.

I grew up on a tree-shaded street, along which children ran down the sidewalks or rode their bikes, and people took their dogs on daily walks. The seasons ran together, blurred, and years slid by, and I wonder, where did they all go? Fall came, and leaves carpeted the streets; winter came and rain pounded the dead leaves until they disintegrated and disappeared; spring raised a cloud of white blossoms and soft green leaves, and summer turned the lawns spotty brown from the heat (particularly if you forgot to water the grass). In the summer ice-cream trucks drove through the streets, tootling their irresistible song that drove my dog crazy (she would start barking when she heard that tinkling music; like doorbells and the Blue Angels during SeaFair it seemed to flick a switch in her brain permanently to ON). You would hear the music of the ice-cream truck coming ever closer, block by block, signaling the beginning of summer, the promise of sunny days and multicolored popsicles that left your tongue striped in reds and blues.

Actually, I preferred ice-cream sandwiches to any kind of popsicle. (Although a friend's mother would give us the kind that came as a solid tube of ice encased in plastic; it was pinched in the middle, like two linked sausages, and you broke it in half like an old-fashioned ampoule of medicine and sucked the melting ice from the hole. And sometimes you just need a popsicle, although I can't remember the last time I had one). No, I preferred the ice-cream sandwich, an oblong block of vanilla ice cream between two chocolate cookies, wrapped in paper-lined foil. I loved that minimalism of it, white ice cream, dark brown - almost black - cookies. As in an ice-box cake of wafers and cream, the ice-cream softened the cookies, and the sandwich became one smooth whole as you ate it, bite by bite, melting slowly. (Or quickly, if the day was hot).

Like barbecues and s'mores and watermelon and the first handful of Rainier cherries of the season, ice cream sandwiches are for summer. Not like regular ice cream, which can be eaten even in the dead of winter, and I do. Somehow ice cream sandwiches belong to summer, to the little white trucks with their tinkling melodies, even if you buy them in boxes of six or eight from the supermarket freezer and not from the ice cream truck, one by one. And summer has come, or is almost here, the sun shining; it is time for barbecues and s'mores and watermelon. And ice cream sandwiches. On an impulse I buy some at the supermarket, I curl up on my sofa and watch the sunset change the colors of the sky outside the windows. Peel away the paper, take the first bite, soft chocolate biscuits, cool, creamy vanilla ice cream. As it happens whenever I eat something I associate with my childhood, I feel the years fall away, then flash forward to this moment again. Summer is here.

1 comment:

jenblanck said...

Oh! The ice cream sandwich. I love how you can make me appreciate these things anew. In 7th grade, I had an ice cream sandwich for lunch every day. It was the first time I had the freedom to choose my lunch, and look what happened. My mother still doesn't know. I love to wait until they're melty, then lick the sides until all that's left is two chocolate wafers with a thin layer of ice cream inbetween. But you have to be patient to do this, which I rarely am.