Yesterday, I observed my dad and sister whispering back and forth to each other. I also noticed how they suddenly stopped, the way people do when they’re talking about you, whenever I got close. I knew something was up but didn’t figure it out until sometime around noon today when my husband said, “Come on, your family wants to meet at Friendly’s in an hour.”
Friendly’s. I gotta admit. I got a little choked up.
I know what you’re thinking—she got choked up over Friendly’s? Well, first you gotta know a couple of things. First, my birthday is coming up but I won’t be able to celebrate with my parents, brother, and sister like I usually do because I’ll be out of town. Second,
I’m kind of an ice cream freak. And when I say ice cream freak, I mean when I was a kid, the ice cream man who drove down our block each day knew me by name. He would even park his truck right in front of my house, ringing the bell and giving me time to scrounge up some change (never mind how torturous this was when I didn’t have change or my mom caught me in time and said, no ice cream today!). In the event I wasn’t home when the ice cream man came by, I’d go down the street to the pizzeria for an Italian ice. And when we moved from New York to Florida (where there were no pizzerias right down the street, or a deli, or an arcade), I befriended the polar cup man because a polar cup was the closest thing I could find to an Italian ice around here.
Anyway, to get back to Friendly’s, it just was one of those places for my family and probably the reason I love ice cream so much. No matter what our troubles were, whether it be money, or living in a time and place where everything always seemed tense and difficult, there were those magical moments when my dad suddenly said, “Let’s go to Friendly’s.” And man, that meant something.
It meant we could forget about everything and just enjoy ice cream. It meant we could crack jokes at my sister’s expense because she always polished off a five scoop Jim Dandy and I could order the cone head sundae with reese’s pieces on the bottom. It meant, my father who was usually pretty serious, cracked a smile and my mother who was usually pretty worried, relaxed. Oddly enough, I remember going there mostly in winter. I guess while others sipped on hot cocoa, my family and I would head to Friendly’s in our heavy winter coats just to eat ice cream. Those were some of our best times.
Today as I sat at the table eating my conehead sundae, making fun of my sister and watching my dad smile, I felt like I was in two worlds. There I was, with my own kids who had chocolate smeared on their faces and were making too much noise with their cousins, but also feeling very much like my nine year old self inside. I could even picture my mom, dad, sister, and brother, just as we had been back then and I swear, it felt like no time had passed. For someone as nostalgic as me, it was the perfect birthday celebration.
Whenever I live moments like this, I kind of feel like I’m in what I’m going to start calling My Wonder Years/Stand By Me Moments. These are the moments when I kind of hear a voice narrating a moment in my life that is usually tied into my adolescence somehow and it’s all very cheesy even as it’s kind of heart warming. They’re also the moments that make me think about life and all that stuff that comes in handy later as a writer. Anyway, that was today.
And it was pretty cool.
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