One Scoop or Two?
by Tammie Ortlieb
From the time I toted my kids around in backpacks, I have treated them to double scoops in waffle cones on blistering summer days. Even before they could walk, my babies knew that they had but to reach their head down over Mama's shoulder for a face full of Mackinac Island Fudge or flavor of the day, Turtle Somethin'. Moments. That's what they were to me. Moments shared together. Minutes in time that would never appear again. And what better memories than sitting under a striped umbrella at a white plastic picnic table on a gorgeous sunny day.
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For me, it wasn't the ice cream. For me, it was time with my children. Time that I knew wouldn't return, would pass too quickly, and would be only faintly remembered at best effort. For me, it was a matter of love, bonding, and throwing caution to the wind in that way that only mothers of young children can do. What should we do today? Picnic with the ducks? Trip to the zoo? I know, let's go get some ice cream! Squeals. Jumping up and down. Then everyone is in the car. Everyone together.
When three of my four beauties turned vegetarian, we continued our outings. After all, they had merely dropped meat from their diets. Milk and eggs were still fair game. And even though I had followed in their plant based ways, I, too, continued downing shakes, malts, and mud slide sundaes. If a cone was dripping in the scorching sun, I was quick to lick it up for them. If they were too full of peanuts, hot fudge sauce, and Reese's bits, I would gladly finish off their creation.
But, then, my daughter announced that she could no longer support modern dairy farming practices or the torturing of chickens. My panic rose. Sweat covered my aging brow. How would I bond with my children now? How would I continue making mental snapshots to file in my mental photo album (John at ten, eyes bigger than his stomach; Kate at six, who would guess she ate that whole cone?)? What would I suggest a family of three teenagers and one fourth grader do together that wouldn't get too great an amount of eye rolling or statements to the effect that that's lame? How would we ever step vegetarian foot in an ice cream parlor again?
By the time I had recovered from my brief grieving over the loss of my beloved Cake Batter in a sprinkle waffle, my daughter was once again shaking parmesan onto her spaghetti.
Now it was I who joined the vegan revolution.
I would be the one to put a halt to our summer afternoon dairy outings. I would be the one to decry beak searing and machine milking and the evils of the veal industry. I would be the one to suggest going to lunch instead. Which, by the way, is not quite the same as napkins stuck to the side of your arm and wondering if chocolate will stain your pants. It is not even quite the same as sitting outside with your cone in a cup on one of those extremely breezy spring days when the wind is about to blow over your striped umbrella and white paper napkins are flying everywhere. Indeed, it wasn't the same.
With me, life is usually an all or nothing venture. So, that's how I approached our spur of the moment ice cream runs. No dairy freeze, not ever. But, then, in one instant, I remembered the little face peeking over my shoulder. The face that would later be so chocolate covered that only wet wipes would find the baby underneath. The face that called me Mommy and thought that I was God's right hand, if not God himself. The face that trusted me completely and gave me kisses at night. I remembered that face as I looked into the face of a sixteen year old. A face that some days wished I would drop off the edge of the earth. A face that would prefer never to be seen in public with my face. A face that has grown far too independent and comes back to Mom's shoulder only in times of pain. I remembered that face as I yelled out non-dairy fruit smoothies for everybody, who wants to go?