Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The counter on here is exactly (sorta, kinda) on the 700 posts mark, give or take a "saved as draft" or two, and even though it's just Spring, the heat that's taken hold lately calls for chilled things and
cool thoughts.

We ate popsicles in the shade yesterday, after our long walk around the neighborhood.   We'd taken three starts at it, Sweetpea and I, with a turn-around just to go another way, then a quick dip back into the house to pick up LaLa, the old beloved yellow TeleTubbie from babynap days.    We took turns carrying her, and pointing out flowers and birds and neighborhood dogs and squirrels to her fresh eyes as we strolled.      The Simmons' iris bed is a marvel, with cheery tall yellows and all the shades of purple there are, including some almost black, and the Herrins' peonies are just a whole screen of pinks and roses and whites.   

As we sat on the patio with our break-and-share treats, I told her about the trips to the little corner store for a fresh popsicle---none of us could have comprehended the actual having of a popsicle in our own freezers---that would have been like harboring a fairy or Batman actually at your house.   Usually two of us would troop along together, knowing the flavor would depend on who-had-the-nickel, for buyer got to choose.    One of us would grasp the whole thing firmly in our two hands, wrapper still on, and gently give that little wrist-snap which divided it into its two lovely intended halves.   There's a purpose to a popsicle, aside from the cold sweet refuge on a Summer day---they're MEANT to be shared.   They're incised in the exact spot which physics dictates as just right, and when they snap with that vague little crunch, and one half is handed to a friend, it's a charming Childhood Communion, with a satisfaction of anticipation and of companionship not available in a cupcake or plate of cookies.

One of us would usually "keep the paper," to catch errant drips, then we'd walk out and amble home, enjoying our treat, trying to capture every escaping drop as the hundred degrees of the day worked its will on the melting ice, running the colors down our elbows as we walked in that careful forward tilt to keep the stains from our clothes.

I told Sweetpea about REAL screen doors---the flappy kind, with the strong, faithful spring which smacked the door behind you (or you in the behind) as you went in and out, to a Mama-chorus of "Don't slam the door!" all up and down the block.   The cunning little flip-latch was a bit of a mystery as I described it, until I made a little flat circle, thumb and forefinger, and hooked the other index into it, pantomiming lock.

She certainly knows "picnic table," with the attached benches, for they're in every park, but they're so well maintained that she hasn't had the full experience---the brush-off-the-bird-poo, swing one leg over, then slide your shorts-clad skin gently along to get settled, without getting a splinter or flake of paint into your hide.   Those old tables were for EVERYTHING (I will not mention the year-round fish-cleaning which went on at the one between our house and the next, for it put me off seafood for life).   

We sat at those tables for picnics, for cookouts.    We read and embroidered and did little crafts-of-the-day, scrolling our names or initials on notebooks with the names of various boys over the years, never daring to incise them into the wood of the table like that daring and slightly-trashy Opal-in-the-eighth-grade did---she of the grubby rhinestone jewelry and black suede ankle-strap high-heels-for-school.   Our Mamas would have been mortified.   

We carried our little phonographs out there and spun the same Elvis record until somebody's parent (not necessarily our own) shouted "Play something ELSE!" through the windowscreen.     We had tea parties and did homework and drew maps to great treasure, and those old boards heard young secrets and dreams, and felt the splash of many a teenage tear.

The heat of the day was often assuaged a bit when whichever  kid belonged to the backyard would go into the house and make KoolAid.   It was the real thing, as well, requiring a cup of sugar into the pitcher with the nose-filling doooost of the powder.    A big long stir, the crickkkk and clunnnkkkk of a twisted ice-tray, and grabbing of whatever glasses or cups were allowed out into the yard.    My favorites were these:

Holding those thin, flash-freezy aluminum cylinders in your hand, rolling them across your reddened, blazing forehead, holding them to a sunburnt cheek---the relief was blessedly soothing.    And even as the ice melted, the glasses seemed to stay miraculously cold, even as the last sweet dregs were uptipped and swallowed.

Sometimes we'd all troop down to the store with its own clackety door, and an even-more-adamant command not to slam---over the years that screen billowed and stretched, prey to a thousand knees and elbows, with the Nehi or Hires or Coca Cola handplate wearing to rust.   Outside of touristy Kountry Kitcheny places or old plank-floor originals, who of today could imagine a place of business with an actual screen door? 

First, there was a trip over to the old Coke 'case" with the uplift of that heavy lid carrying the scent of galvanized metal, the deep rich tire-store smell of the black rubber gasket, and the somehow-salty scent of the ice-floating water within.   

We never grabbed a standing bottle by its neck---if it was sticking out of the water, it wasn't cold enough.   We'd fish deep into those Arctic depths, feeling the shock on our immersed hand, letting the pure-D bone-chill and then the ache of the fumbling set our hand on fire with the deadening.     

And despite the hundred-grubby-hands-a-day jooged down into that water, and the probable rarity of a good cleaning for the whole thing, we never bothered to dry the bottles or wipe off the moisture, and I don't think anyone ever caught anything from it.    A WISSSSSP past the opener, hoping that the almost-freeze of the drink didn't cause it to foam up and waste a drop in overflow, and then those first upended burning swallows.    Nothing can describe it; nothing can equal it.

And sometimes, just sometimes, if you'd been really good, or played your cards right, or the planets were aligned, you could hold your bottle up to the sun and actually watch the drink freeze---top to bottom, as "the air hit it."     And THAT was the prize---that primeval Slushie unattainable in any other fashion, coveted and enjoyed down to the last little crumb of ice coaxed and bottle-smacked into your head-flung-back mouth.

We've gotta find one of those stores, and perhaps as soon as she's a little older, Ganner will bring home some little glass-bottle cokes, we'll chill them super-cold, and I'll teach her the true ritual of Summer:   Peanuts in her Coke.


Keetha said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes. What a wonderful trip through summer memories!

Those jewel-toned aluminum glasses. My grandmother in Shelby, Miss. had some and I loved them, especially in the summer.

Beverly said...

I don't know why, but this just made me cry. I guess I must be feeling very sentimental.

My mother had those glasses, and I thought they were so ... fancy. She also had little terrycloth sleeves to go on them.

♥♥♥ to you, Rachel.

Jeanne said...

Hi Rachel, this story sure takes me back to another time and life. Did we ever think those memories would EVER happen to us? Nope, we were kids and never thought about anything except a shared popsicle or peanuts in a coke, old screens that slammed shut and ice cold drinks that would freeze our hands while digging deep into the icy water for a real cold one. And I don't mean beer. HA!

I also remember aluminum glasses and a pitcher to match. We were quite in awe of those shiny colorful things. Boy could they sweat when filled with ice and a drink.

I LOVE you and your wonderful stories.

Bev said...

Arghhhhh..you had me until you said peanuts in coke..I'm baffled by this..do you eat the peanuts at the end or during or what?? Please explain to this Northener. There is nothing better than an icy cold Coca Cola..I love the sound of a screen door banging and I remember that heat from growing up back east..ah Rachel..thank you so much..beautiful!!! Congrats on number 700..I've loved every word!! Lots of love.

racheld said...

AWWWWW. the kindling of memories is a bittersweet thing, and I hope you're all okay with these.

I love hearing from all of you, and only hope this Thank You will post without a glitch.

And Bev: It's a Southern thing, best done right there in front of the little country store, in the sparse shade and the traffic going by out on the blacktop.

From October of 2009: Fish an icy Co-Cola out of an ice-filled cooler. WHISSSSSPP off the cap and take a cold, burning swallow. Hold Coke in left hand. Pick up a crinkly package of Planters’ Peanuts in other hand, lift to mouth. Use eyetooth to tear a teensy slit across top of bag. Grasp loosened flap in front teeth and rip from package. Give the tiny wisp of cellophane a little PUH into the air as you proceed.

Now, sliding your hand up around neck of bottle, ease your fingers up to make a cup around mouth of bottle. Pour peanuts from package into finger-cup funnel into bottle. Listen to the satisfying hiss as the salt meets the CO2; inhale the unmistakable scent of Summertime. Just as foaming subsides, lift bottle to lips, tilt head back, and pour in a nice cold swallow of Coke, filled with the rich salty peanuts.

Chew peanuts, swallow Coke. Putcha feet up. Contemplate Life.

Bev said...

Ahhhh..ok I get it. I will try it next time I get a bottle of Coke. Thanks Rachel.

Kim Shook said...

I made the mistake of reading this at work. You so perfectly recalled my summers in NC that I got a little teary. I haven't had a real popsicle in years - I think they will go on my shopping list for this weekend. I do remember that icy, drippy-fast-melting, fake-fruity goodness! Ours were kept in the freezer, because we were too far out in the country to get to the nearest store. I loved the picture of the REAL screen door - I SO want one for our house. Jessie has one and I am GREEN! And the picnic table - lugged all over the yard to follow the shade in the summer and the sun in the spring. We'd eat watermelon near the pasture and the cows would MOOOOOO longingly at us, blinking lush eyelashes beseeching for the rinds. And Kool Aid MAN!!! I have that pitcher, still! I need to add some packets of grape and cherry and maybe lime to the shopping list this weekend. I make it with Splenda now, but it is still a trashy pleasure! Most of your memories, from another time and place, are mine, too and I so appreciate this post, my friend!