There are so many little things that seem inconsequential in the big world. Small things, like when my daughter handed me her bowl of black raspberry ice cream, giving me the first bite when it should have belonged to her and the sweetness of it was doubled. There on the spoon and on my tongue was a flavor that took me in Time’s slipstream—down Route 39, riding in the shade of the maples that my best friend’s granddaddy had planted, past the spring on the hill that supplied our little town with good, sweet water.
I was in the car with my dad again, riding on a narrow road between yellow fields because it was summer. He hadn’t said where we were going but I knew and I fidgeted a little because I was happy. The windows were down and the dust came in and even that was something good, the wind and the dust and the sun over everything.
The tires crunched over gravel when we pulled up to the Texaco station, ringing the bell that came out of the hidden mouth of the tube that snaked across the pavement, letting everyone know we were there. I could see a hand waving behind the station’s big front glass. I saw the embroidered red Texaco star on the gray shirt of the man who was waving. My dad swung the big car over the ringing tube again and lined up next to the red and white gas tanks that said they were “Fire Chiefs”. We were all exactly where we supposed to be.
I got out of the car. My flip flops slapped against the bottom of my feet. My toes and ankles were scratched from running through briars and creekbeds. Inside, it smelled like oil and rubber and cigarettes. That was exactly the way it was supposed to smell. I was asked “What flavor today, little lady?” and sometimes I picked chocolate and on some days black cherry, but never Neapolitan because vanilla took up took much space. Today, I picked black raspberry. It was scooped up and the cone was wrapped in a thin paper napkin and handed to me by hands that still smelled like Lava soap. The first taste was how the day felt and it was all pretty close to perfect.
The road I’ve been traveling lately has been a very different one from that summer road. The pavement seems tilted and glints with mysterious shards. The trees that line the way provide little shade, the leaves seem flecked with barbs. There have been more questions than answers. I ache a little from needing the feel of a benevolent sun on my skin.
So I needed a place that was familiar and safe and full of a simple richness. That’s what I tasted on the spoon tonight and when I thanked my daughter, I really meant it.