Movin' On with Nellie: It’s national soft ice cream day, today

According to the Internet it is national soft ice cream day today. 

That gives me a reason to stop by DQ again and get a small, medium or large cone. 

I remember still when we had an ice cream store in Alamosa. I remember pulling up to the drive through and going in to talk to the counter help. Now our DQ is in Monte; but we can still get our fix of soft ice cream at McD’s, Sonic and Burger King.

My favorite memory of soft ice cream was when I wasn’t even in elementary school yet and my mom took us to the El Sombrero drive-in for a soft ice cream cone. There was a huge ice cream cone with the curly top on the front and it was only a pull up and order place. Sometimes my aunt came with us. My sister and I sat in the back seat of her dark hunter green Chevrolet just eyeing her order. When my little sister and I got the cone, we were in heaven and our taste buds knew it. We licked, licked and licked. It was such a treat. On a hot Texas day, it beat running through a lawn sprinkler.

The El Sombrero was important to us because my uncle worked as a cook at the restaurant behind the ice cream place. I loved the huge sombrero that was on the marquee.

Getting to the crunchy wafer cone was a big deal. First I always tried to lick all the ice cream completely out. That tactic meant a lot of slurping too. Finally the cone was left and dissolved in my mouth.

On this day of the national ice cream cone, we have a life made better by modern treats. But those old summertime picnics still bring on a deep nostalgia. 

At Carter’s lake my mom and aunt would have fried up chicken in a cast iron skillet to bring out. Their German Potato Salad was complemented by corn on the cob. If we were at the canal instead, there was a rope to swing on over the waterway before we ate. 

I learned to swim there when my cousin taught me the way he learned. He shared more than once that his dad threw him into the water and he had to sink or swim. So he picked me up and threw me into the canal; right into the center. I struggled to reach the long roots of the tree from which the rope dangled. I couldn’t reach the rope either. I was crying by then, too. He yelled at me to paddle like a dog.  That’s when I learned the dog paddle. It was a rough start to swimming, I admit, but from that, I learned that I could swim after all. Everyone gathered around me when I pulled myself up. Jerry patted me on the back and said, see you can swim!

But it was a lesson, we’ve all had to learn in our lives – when life throws ditches at you, you have to learn to grab the roots and pull yourself up from the slippery bank. Billy Ocean said it for us: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

But I have often tried to be there to help someone up from the bank. I didn’t teach my son to swim that way. He was a baby when he began long afternoons in the pool with me. I swam when I was pregnant and I continued to swim after he was born. With newborn in arms, I would enter the water and move about the pool so the water wouldn’t be scary to him. Soon enough before he was a toddler he was swimming over and under. There are better ways to learn to swim than being tossed into the maelstrom.

There’s a picture of my mom and her brother swinging me over the little foamy waves at South Padre Island before I was 3. That is possibly my first intro to the beach and water. All I can remember from that day on the island was that I was scared. I’ve seen that same petrified response in small dogs I’ve taken to the beach. They run away from the incoming wave; but gradual coaxing soon brings the puppy into the water, snapping and lapping at the waves. 

With my son, the soft ice cream cone has been the ritual end to a busy day and it’s a tradition, I still carry on.

--Nelda Curtiss is a retired college professor who enjoys writing and fine arts. Contact her at [email protected]