Monday 26 Sep 2016

Soft Serve at Nancy's
AJ Robinson

Kids tend to be pretty messy, especially boys. How many times have you seen them in a restaurant or park, or some other place, and their hands and faces will be covered in gook? Dear old Mom will dutifully get out the baby wipes or paper towels and wipe them down. Of course, this often elicits either howls of protest or an impromptu game of catch me if you can; as the young miscreant takes off for parts unknown!

Well, growing up, I was pretty much the same sort; had those days where spaghetti sauce went from ear to ear on my face, ice cream dripped from my chin, and I ended up wearing more food than I ate. How my Mother ever got those clothes clean, I will never know! Of course, having four older brothers helped. Not only did she have experience in dealing with such situations, but I had plenty of hand-me-down clothes to use as throwaways, shall we say?

In the case of summers on Marthas Vineyard, she did tend to let up on the whole cleanliness issue just a bit. For the most part, as long as my face and hands and feet were washed regularly, she was willing to cut me some slack otherwise. Oh, and a bath or shower after going to the beach. Actually, thats not exactly correct a washing after my last trip to the beach for the day. After all, what with Town Beach being within walking distance, two to three trips in a day were not unheard of. So, as long as I cleaned up after the last excursion and before bed she was okay with it.

On the subject of ice cream, she still tended to try and keep me relatively clean. I think it had to do with the fact that chocolate was my favourite flavour it seemed to stain more than vanilla.

Of all the ice cream shops on the Island at that time my two favourites were Dairy Queen (our one chain restaurant), and Nancys Snack Bar. Now, as the former was in Edgartown, it was quite the drive to get to. In general, we saved going there as a reward for acting, well, at State Beach. So, that meant we went there less than half a dozen times during any given summer!

Dont blame me; my Mom had in my humble opinion overly high standards and expectations regarding proper beach activities. As an example, since when is throwing your friend or relative into the water from the stone jetties something that should be considered as bad?

But I digress.

As for Nancys," it was (is) right along the edge of the harbour, across the street from the Volunteer Fire Department, and next to the fish market right in Oak Bluffs. So, it was well within walking distance! It was also the only ice cream shop in town to have the so-called soft serve ice cream my favourite.

As a result, I and my friends were frequent customers.

Now, not only was it great ice cream, but it served as yet another first in my life; my first solo ice cream. Usually, whenever my Mom got me an ice cream, she would sort of hover over me, watching me with those Mom Eyes you know, the ones they have in the back of their head and at the first sign of a drip going down the cone, shed snatch it away from me. A few quick licks, shed beat back the gathering flood of melting ice cream, and then hand it back to me.

While I appreciated her efforts to keep me clean, I rather resented the loss of ice cream. Now, you may say it was only a few licks, but then you havent seen my Mothers tongue!

No, strike that; that didnt come out right. To a small boy, even a few little licks was too much ice cream to be parted from. Plus, there was the complete and utter humiliation of having to be rescued by my Mom every time my ice cream cone began to flow!

So, to that end, I went to Nancys on several occasions on my own and bought an ice cream cone. I would sit there at the counter, cone in hand, and carefully lick and measure my progress regarding the rate of melt-age of the cone. My initial efforts did not fair so well, but my lick rate improved with time. Granted, I had to eat a lot of ice cream, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make!

Eventually, finally, came the day that I had been working for, labouring for, hoping for for so very long. I devised the perfect lick rate and lick pattern so as to prevent any drips from escaping from the top edge of the cone.

I had achieved my goal; I was now a proficient ice cream licker, and could eat it without assistance from my Mother. Yes, I know, only a tiny victory. Well, for a boy of eight, those are the ones that truly matter.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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