Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ice Cream "Sandwiches" and Dead Turtles by the Pond

My parents sometimes bought us four kids ice cream in the summer-nothing fancy, just the store brand Neapolitan that came in a plastic bucket. We could each have one bowl a day, and Vinca, a.k.a. Second Mommy, was given the task of dishing up fair portions between the four of us. I very clearly remember the time we three younger kids were sitting on the dining table watching Vinca dole out our treat. A moment later there was a pile of kids covered in Neapolitan ice cream between two halves of a broken table, and Vinca was standing with hands on hips glaring at us.

A quick discussion ensued. How mad would Mom and Dad be? The conclusion was: not very since our dining table at that time was a rectangular plastic foldout. We therefore set ourselves at ease and didn't worry about "staging" the wreckage to make it look like an act of God instead of the work of three growing children.

Boy, were we surprised when our parents walked in that evening! And a little resentful, too, because not only were they mad (very!), but they actually made us clean up the mess! Ah, parents-they can be so hard to figure out sometimes.

But now you're wondering: where the heck do the "sandwiches" come in, never mind the dead turtles? Well, I'll tell you then.

Annie thought we should make the presentation of our ice cream more interesting and also portable. So she invented our ice cream sandwich: two slices of white bread with ice cream slathered in the middle and then frozen to perfection. Nate and I thought it was brilliant; it rivaled her ''pizza" which was pretty hard to beat. That recipe also called for white bread, a generous smearing of ketchup and a little Velveeta before being baked in the oven for a couple minutes. (Ah, I'm so glad the flavor of it is only a distant memory now!) I don't remember Vinca partaking of these culinary delights. No doubt her taste buds were too mature for such exotic children's fare.

When the sandwiches were good and frozen, Annie, Nate and I quickly packed them up and beat it down the lane. We had an appointment with our favorite tree. Once we topped the big hill past the creek, we climbed the fence into Mr. Spann's cow field and headed for the lone tree at the rise beyond the old well.

This tree was huge, and it had wide sweeping branches that created a canopy where cows and humans could retreat from the sun. You had to bend to get beneath the outermost fingers of its evergreen boughs, but then there was plenty of space to sit up and even stand. Here we had our afternoon tea parties. (I don't know how we got Nate to agree to it; he must have been in it for the ice cream sandwiches.) We spread out my pink plastic tea set we'd brought with us and lay the sandwiches on its plates. Of course the ice cream had begun to melt by this point, but no matter; the bread absorbed it quite nicely.

If we didn't fall asleep after such a splendid meal, we were almost always ready to explore. Sometimes we chose the small band of trees on the bluff above the creek, sometimes the cluster of apple trees on the other side of the ravine where our family's favorite blackberry patch grew in tangled glory. But this one time we decided to make the long trek across that large field and cross the fence at the back of Mr. Spann's property. At that point we didn't know whose land we were on. It was for us uncharted territory.

It was on this expedition that we discovered the pond surrounded by a grove of trees. There were blackberry bushes there, too, growing a few feet from the pond. We thought the large murky pond was a great discovery until we noticed something peculiar. Dead turtles bobbed on the surface of the water and were decaying on the banks.

This was a mystery and one which seemed to have been waiting for us to discover it. Besides, we were outraged on behalf of the turtles. So we squatted by the pond and puzzled it over. We walked around the water and prodded the poor dead things with sticks, afraid to touch the surface with our hands. Nate was especially keen to figure out what had transpired at that lonely place, but after wasting an afternoon with no more evidence than the sight and smell of the carcasses, we were forced to turn back.

I now know turtles are sometimes exterminated in fishing ponds because they can interfere with fish populations. As a child I didn't know that, however. I just felt sad. We all did as we crossed the field and headed back down the lane toward home.

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