“Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.”
I’ve had a love affair with ice cream ever since my father first took me to Dairy Queen as a little girl. Consumption of sugar was not encouraged in our house, therefore, ice cream was a treat to be enjoyed only on special occasions (or, more often, whenever my father craved sugar). The anticipation killed my sisters and me as we piled in the backseat of my dad’s company car and headed the few blocks to Dairy Queen. There wasn’t a moment of silence. My sisters and I discussed our favorite flavors, what kind of cone we would choose, and how many licks we thought it would take before we all succumbed to the pure agony of a brain freeze.
As my father opened the shop’s door, a rush of cold air hit my face as the little bell at the top of the door tinkled a cheerful welcome. Once again, I had been granted an early admission to heaven. Ice cream cakes greeted me from inside the freezer. The sound of whirring malt machines echoed off the walls. I stared at the menu. Photos of banana splits, dilly bars, and the latest peanut butter parfait tempted me like the devil on a sugar rampage. But there was, and always had been, only one Dairy Queen treat for me—a small regular cone. Truth be known, there was just something deliciously simple about the cone. No toppings. No fancy name. No straw or spoon needed. On a hot summer night, it seemed there was no one else in the world at that moment but the ice cream, a crunchy cone, and me.
I squeaked to the man behind the counter, “I’ll have a small cone”—a request my father immediately followed with, “And throw in a lot of napkins while you’re at it!” Even at an early age, I had quickly learned there are several tricks to successfully eating ice cream—none of which ever quite worked when the temperature outside was ninety-plus degrees with eighty percent humidity. But I tried.
Now, many years have passed and I have my own children. We purposely live only a mile from a Dairy Queen—a small, rickety building where we have celebrated many occasions for eighteen years. Good grades. Awards. Anniversaries. Being a family. Loving each other unconditionally. As I open the door for my children, the bell tinkles, a rush of cold air hits my face, and the ice cream cakes still greet me from inside the freezer. There is always a line. I find the end and wait. As I inch closer to the counter and stare at all the glorious photos on the menu, I secretly think I am still in heaven. “I’ll have a small cone,” I say to the man behind the counter because I think it is okay to still love the same things we loved as children.
After we all receive our frozen treats, we open the door to go outside into the hot summer night. The bell tinkles once again. We sit at a picnic table, place our pile of napkins under our elbows, and see how many licks it takes before one of us succumbs to an ice cream headache. The sound of laughter and crunching cones fills the air. I sneak a look at my children who are growing up faster than I’d like and silently hope that they remember these moments forever and, more importantly, that there is always time for ice cream.
Quite some time ago, I wondered why eating ice cream makes me so happy. It didn’t take long before I realized the real reason—a reason that changed my life forever. Whenever I eat ice cream, I feel happy from the inside out. And that my friends, is the secret to feeling joyful every day.
I think I hear Dairy Queen calling your name.