The licking was fervent and loud like a dog licking the back of your neck. The frozen milky lactose-laden goodness was no match for the erect bumps on my tongue’s surface. I could feel each morsel of frozen strawberry being lifted from its form and dump itself onto my gums and molars, filling each crevice, nook and cranny inside of my happy little cheeks. I happily walked across Scarborough Town Centre’s atrium, the white lights of Laura Secord Chocolates still in my periphery. But I wasn’t paying any attention to the loud tacky mall fountain or the smelly little Pakistani kids screaming at their older siblings by the benches. I couldn’t even be bothered to notice the new games display at the Radio Shack as I was too busy inhaling this giant double scoop strawberry surprise balanced on this flimsy slightly burnt waffle cone.
My mom’s friend had decided to spoil me like all adult friends of your parents do by buying me my very first ice cream cone. This was the first time I had ever eaten ice cream that wasn’t the discount stuff we usually had in the freezer. The kind that was covered in jagged crystals by the 3rd week of no one touching it. I think my parents thought that having ice cream in the freezer was their way of telling guests that deep down they were fun-loving people. But there were never nuts, sprinkles or anything to go with it in our cupboards unless you thought dried fish was an appropriate topping. And forget about chocolate sauce because “it’s obviously made out of powder and water.” Even as a little kid, I knew it wasn’t productive for chocolate sauce to go through a whole powder process during the manufacturing stages before it was turned into a liquid. Call me crazy but Nestle wasn’t that dumb. Regardless, it wasn’t allowed in the house. Sometimes we didn’t even have cones because it “didn’t make sense to eat something that would eventually drip everywhere.”
I didn’t even like strawberry (still don’t) but because my parents’ friend was pretty persistent on buying me something sweet, my mom gave in but only if it was strawberry. Aunt Amy, who wasn’t as strict as my mom, took me by the hand and lead me over to the counter. I could barely reach up to see through the glass. Ice cream companies are smart motherfuckers. They make those windows just high enough to entice 5-year-olds into wanting whatever is behind those partitions. Once I got on my tippy-toes, I could see colours as bright as the ones in a box of crayons. Of course, I wanted the weirdest ones like the electric orange tigertail or that rainbow stuff in the corner bucket. Mom quickly walked over and vetoed my choices in Chinese. “Get him strawberry. It’s the healthiest and the only one that won’t give him a stomach ache.”
And of course, I wanted a fun crispy cone but my mom’s choice was one of those slightly burnt waffle cones that eventually got chewy and gross. A waffle cone also has more mass therefore more bang for one’s buck. But I didn’t care. My eyes widened as the family friend handed me the cone. It was totally too heavy and I gripped it with two hands since the serviette was getting more slippery with every step. I decided to start at the top where this little frozen berry was sticking out and after 2 big painful bites, I was lost in my own little world of frozen goodness. I wasn’t coming back to reality until we got to Sears. Being a pretty meticulous child, this ice cream cone was going to take my complete concentration. My aunt laughed at me and took my left hand as we shuffled across the paved atrium floor. I was in heaven.
I took a short pause, smiled and looked up at Aunt Amy. I felt a tug on my right arm and turned my head. Suddenly, it was like someone had shot me in the stomach and all my organs had exploded, spilling forth and flooding the colourful floors of Lady Foot Locker. A wading pool’s worth of blood gushing out and drowning all the annoying little immigrant kids running around the pillars. I watched my Mom’s giant hand reach over and grab the cone from my right hand. In one swoop, my precious ice cream was tossed into the mint green garbage can, the top scoop hitting a bit of the metal ashtray. I let out a silent scream and burst into tears. I thought I had done something bad or had looked at my aunt in the wrong way. Maybe they thought I had shoplifted or I had walked too loud? Whatever it was, I knew a beating was coming.
Without looking at me, Mom wiped my hands with the serviette. Mom said, “Ice ceam no good” and walked ahead to catch up with my dad who always walked a few metres ahead. Aunt Amy didn’t even notice what was happening and squeezed my hand periodically as she chatted with another friend. I couldn’t breathe and felt ashamed to have indulged in something so decadent. It was difficult to walk and cry at the same time so I felt as If I were being dragged by Aunt Amy. I just couldn’t get a proper walking rhythm going because my knees were trembling with each step. I decided to look down at my little Velcro shoes as I was also afraid of being scolded or slapped in public.
The adults stopped momentarily in front of Marks and Spencer and I wiped my eyes with my sleeve. I looked up at my mom, tears still burning my cheeks and she was busy talking to the family friend, “So which way to Sears?”