It’s summer. It’s hot.
This is the perfect time for ice cream. We just celebrated Independence Day last week, and I am sure that all over America there were ice cream cones, sundaes and floats. It makes me happy to think about it.
My home state, Alaska, is known to have the highest per capita ice cream consumption. That doesn’t make any kind of sense, because it is already cold there. We didn’t have a need to cool off.
Why then? Ice cream is a comfort. My oh my, what a good feeling it is to have a bit of ice cream. Or a whole carton.
When I was old enough to live on my own and choose my own serving size of ice cream, I felt so empowered. I was a grown up! I could have ice cream for breakfast if I wanted to!
And then there was a time I used to eat ice cream every day. I made a point of getting the healthiest kind I could, but I ate it every night: a great big bowl.
I got a full-body happiness when I ate that bowl of ice cream after a wretched day of work. No wonder I ate it every day. There was a lot of wretchedness at work.
At a certain point, I could feel the pleasure fill my body. I could feel my mood lighten and improve. Not forever, but at that moment and maybe a second bowl later, everything felt right. I started to wonder how out of balance I must be for this one thing to have such an affect on me.
In this day and age, we can get all the ice cream we want any time of day or night. I remember reading Farmer Boy from The Little House on the Prairie series, and the description of how the children made ice cream for themselves when their parents were out. It was hard work, taking all day and even longer to plan, anticipate and salivate.
If there is comfort in the food itself, and I swear there is, maybe there is a comfort in working to get that payoff.
Nineteen years old in Mirnyy, Yakutia Russia I had one friend: Masha. As I am finishing my manuscript The Russian American School of Tomorrow I am closing out the story of our adventures. The cold, the isolation and the desperation of living in the ruins of every safe and confining institution that the world had to offer were the air we breathed.
There was nothing anyone could do.
But Masha and I? We had a mission. Somewhere in our town, there might be ice cream for sale. In the handful of cafes, ice cream might show up without warning. The supply would run out the same way it arrived, never lasting more than a day. So we prowled the streets to look for the possibility of a sweet creamy reward.
Fur hats and boots, scarves pulled up over our noses and mitten hands jammed in pockets or holding the elbow of the other’s arm as we walked and talked across the icy streets. One shop had no ice cream, and then off we went to another.
We knew that most days we would come up empty. Weeks went by with no ice cream. The search was the adventure. The comfort of the ice cream was real, but not as real and reliable as the comfort of our companionship.
The last time I saw Masha was sending her off to university in the big city. They had a reliable supply chain of ice cream. What with the advent of capitalism and the free market, whole square miles of the town center had become and open market. Every block we walked had several ice cream sandwich sellers eager for our custom.
We bought them all: life’s riches suddenly available for the taking. For Masha and I. For then. For that day and that time.
After I picked up my habit, ridiculously disguised in a fat free package, I realized ice cream was not the solution for me anymore. The problem needed a real solution. Like the song says “I know it’s not a party if it happens every night.”
I did give up the nightly ice cream party before I figured out I needed to give up the wretched job. I had to change me and bind up some of the wounded emotional expectations.
Ice cream is a treat, that is for sure. It’s a kind of feel-good medicine that we can reach for. Just follow the directions and watch the dosage.