I’m twenty years old sitting in a college cafeteria, a bowl of ice cream in front of me. It’s been there for ten minutes, the spoon balanced it’s edge. The conversation is on climbing, or art, or drinking, or what we were going to do that night; one of a million that we had. This bowl of ice cream is one of dozens I ate over my four years at school; just another college dinner in a tasteless cafeteria in the early 1990s.
“Are you going to eat that?” my friend asks.
“It isn’t ready,” I say glancing at the bowl.
He shakes his head, fifteen years of friendship has only made it clear that I do things my way. He shakes his head and goes back to talking. Everyone else looks at my bowl too, but I’m not concerned A few minutes later I take the spoon off the edge of the bowl and start to stir the ice cream.
I am three or four years old. I am sitting on my aunt’s lap at the table waiting for dessert. My dad comes in with a tray of white ramekins each with a scoop of ice cream in it. Chocolate for my dad, vanilla for my mom, and coffee for my aunt and I. When my aunt takes her bowl from the tray she starts to chop the ice cream up with the side of her spoon. Like everything else with my aunt I do the same thing, soon we have a mush of ice cream that can be stirred.
“This is how we eat ice cream,” my aunt says as she brings the first soupy spoonful to her mouth, I copy her and as soon as I feel the silky sweetness in my mouth I know she is right.
I am ten years old and I am scooping ramekins of ice cream for my two year old cousin and myself, we sit at the kitchen counter at the family cabin. As soon as I place it in front of her she goes for her spoon, heaping it with ice cream.
“No,” I shout at her, she looks like she’s going to cry. “We have to mix it first.”
She looks doubtful, but I’m the big cousin so she puts it back in her ramekin and copies me as I mix my ice cream. When I finally let her eat it she has a big smile on her face.
“We made the ice cream better!”
I am thirty four, sitting at the same counter my cousin brings in a pint of ice cream and three ramekins. My son, two, sits between us. This is not his first ice cream, not even his first ice cream with my cousin, but now she has deemed him old enough.
“Now A I’m going to teach you something important,” she says keeping the ramekin just out of his reach. “This is something your mama taught me, and that my mom taught her.”
He nods his head reaching for the ice cream.
“Not yet,” she says. “When you get the ice cream you need to mix it like this.”
The three of us sit there mixing our ice cream. My aunt walks into the room and shakes her head, and scoops herself some coffee ice cream.