My daughter and I are sitting in a restaurant. She’s 6. It’s past dinner time, closing in on 8 o’clock, and our pizza hasn’t arrived yet. I’m trying to entertain her, keep her occupied, away from the annoyance of waiting too long for your food in a crowded restaurant. I ask her, “So tell me, what was the best part your day?”
As I’m waiting for her to answer, she crinkles her nose and glares at me. She’s hungry and doesn’t want to play the game. I answer, “You know the best part of my day? Eating ice cream with you in the Dairy Queen parking lot.”
The two of us being together has been a constant this crowded summer. We’ve taken her siblings to camp in Minnesota, New York and Maine. We’ve spent time with family in Michigan and been at home in Illinois. Throughout this summer nestled gently between kindergarten and first grade, a summer where her two front teeth both fell in different states, she and I have been together, many times day and night as she has shared my bed in hotel rooms and family cabins.
I’m an easy one for ice cream stands on a summer afternoon. I’m partial to soft serve, the kind that comes in a twist on a flat bottomed cone. The kind you lick all the way down to the cone and then get the treat of eating the combination of soft ice cream and a crispy, sugary cone.
This summer we’ve been to “Hoss’s” in the Adirondack Mountains, right across the corner from “Custard’s Last Stand” where they ignored our order for two small cones and instead served gigantic amounts of ice cream swirled high. We ate it all, every last lick, and then we both felt a little sick.
We’ve been to a Dairy Queen in Minnesota. I was recovering from food poisoning and could only smile and sit beside her at the sticky picnic table in the parking lot as ice cream dripped everywhere. She skipped around the tables picking clovers in the weedy grass. I tried to make a clover necklace and we laughed at my failed attempt.
We’ve driven by the “Cozy Korner” in Michigan that we renamed the “Cranky Korner” because the main server at the counter is super cranky. And then another Dairy Queen here on the coast of Maine.
There are threads that I notice weaving our lives together, some thin and fragile, others thick and sturdy, sometimes simple, but always constant. The shuttle moves back and forth, and as patterns emerge I’m reminded of the beauty of nature, cycles, repetition and loss. A simple memory of ice cream in a parking lot, it’s a memory that binds me to her and this magical summer.
You know the best part of my day? Sticky tables, sticky hands, a messy face, a toothless grin and being 6 during the last days before first grade.