My cousin makes himself an ice cream sundae every evening. It began as self-medicating. For the principal and father of three, the chopped nuts, whipped cream, hot fudge and maraschino cherry served as a moment of delectable peace at the end of yet another stressful day. Then the kids found out.
Soon, spoonsful of melting peanut butter ribbon and rocky road were distributed in an assembly line of Minnie Mouse bowls to his daughters, in what can only be described as a smorgasbord of hell. No more was the process a relaxing treat; it was a nightly barrage of demands over flavors, toppings and seconds. The beloved rocky road was replaced with strawberry, a flavor my cousin is allergic to. Nuts were replaced with gummy worms. Whipped cream replaced with condensed milk. And the entire ice cream experience has been, for my cousin, replaced with a stiff scotch, which he pours himself nightly after cleaning up the counter of drippy, sticky melted ice cream that has been left behind after his daughters go to bed.
The first time I visited my son's primary school and saw a large locked see-through freezer stuffed to the brim with various ice cream bars, I asked my cousin what he thought. I could hear him shuttering through the phone as he diplomatically explained that he would never introduce that nightmare of ice-cold angst into his school.
Ice cream plays a special role in the lives of children. Some of my favorite memories from childhood are of chasing after the ice cream truck as it whipped around my cul-de-sac. I was never quite sure whether our ice cream man was sadistic or stoned. He would drive the extent of my expansive neighborhood as shoeless kids ran their hearts out, waving dollars toward the clouds, and he wouldn't stop until there was a large crowd panting behind him. Sometimes he wouldn't stop at all, and we'd drag our blistered feet back to our homes, totally dejected. When I reached third grade, the ice cream man began mocking my ice cream sandwich and encouraged me to get candy cigarettes. Three years later, he suggested I go home and steal some money from my mom's purse so I could buy real cigarettes from his secret stash. Strawberry shortcake Good Humor bars were a gateway drug to a life of crime. Do we really need these in our schools?
I recall ice cream being offered at my school on Fridays before vacations. It was served in little white cups with flat wooden spoons. It was a treat that, other than on these special days, never crossed our minds.
But that locked freezer at the front door of my son's school welcomes children on the first day and continues to taunt them for the next 280 days.
You want me, don't you? the ice cream calls to the kids. And the kids do want the frozen goodies inside the freezer — not just because they are kids but because where I live, school starts ungodly early, in the first week of August. The freezer hums a tune of abject disappointment as they return to their hot classrooms without ice cream salvation. Nuh-uh, the freezer says. I'm only unlocked on special occasions — and only to the kids who earn it.
I told my cousin that the ice cream freezer is some kind of elitist bargaining chip, a bribe administered by the school administration. I described it as a sprinkled carrot that the kids will never earn and will exhaust themselves attempting to reach — chocolate-dipped cruelty with a wooden stick up its bottom.
My cousin laughed and said not to underestimate the power of an ice cream bribe. He wouldn't open that can of worms in his school, but it works wonders in his home. The sticky smorgasbord may be a pain to clean after the kids are in bed, but hey, at least it gets the kids in bed.
Yesterday I received an email about the ice cream social welcoming our kids back to a new school year. I told my son that we have to go shopping for new school supplies before we head over to the event. He began to whine his discontent at shopping.
"Fine, no ice cream," I heard myself say.
The year of the ice cream bribe is upon us.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.