Good Humor Man


Mom and Dad were never the types who forced me to clean my plate. And thankfully, they refrained from serving child-repellent dishes (liver and onions come to mind).

But they did dangle that dessert carrot in front of me: “If you don’t finish your vegetables….no ice cream…. “

That must be standard language in every parent handbook.

Every so often, however, I got pardoned — a temporary reprieve from sensible eating and a chance at unfettered cookie consumption.

My get-out-of-jail-free card was my mom’s brother — Uncle Bill — who was more than happy to forego carrots and peas, and dish up a double serving of pie. Or stack teetering scoops of ice cream in a bowl, stabilized with chocolate chip cookies.

Gluttonous escapades with Bill were annual events since my uncle lives on the west coast. But those summer trips were sugar infused.

When I was 8 years old, Bill took me to Disneyland. I don’t remember the rides or if I met Mickey. But I remember the food. We passed through the admission gates and Bill marched up to the first vendor he saw and ordered our first course: ice cream sandwiches. We followed that up with caramel popcorn and then cleansed our palates with snow cones.

Perhaps we wedged a hotdog in there as well, but at sunset when we left the Magic Kingdom, Bill grabbed me by the shoulder with that “I have an idea” expression on his face.

“You know what we should do now?” he asked. “We should go get some ice cream!”

Over the years Bill and I have gossiped over brimming bowls of cookies-and-cream, and drizzled fudge over french vanilla, laughing when Granny’s voice floats in the kitchen: “William? You’re not in the freezer again, are you?”

Of course metabolism catches up with us all. I can’t plow through a bag of Oreos anymore and even skinny-Bill has dialed back his sweet tooth.

This past weekend Bill came out for a rare east coast visit. The last time I saw him, he looked glum and disinterested in dessert. Chemotherapy had dampened his cravings for mint chocolate chip.

But that was months ago. This weekend he looked more like himself. A little thin, but healthy and sporting hair again.

It was after dinner when I saw the old Bill return. He ate four pieces of custard pie and followed them up with a double portion of ice cream (Note: Edys makes a repulsive flavor called Banana Split. I took one bite and deposited my serving in Bill’s bowl. Somehow, he managed to eat it.)

Shortly after the ice cream, Bill discovered the ginger snaps. By then we were knee-deep in political debate and I noticed that each time Bill emphasized some political injustice, he leaned forward and slid his hand in the cookie bag.

The whole evening, from pie to ginger snap…brought back some sweet memories.