Summers are known for picnics, parades and fireworks. The rituals and traditions passed from generation to generation are an important thread in the family history that many of us cherish.
Family gatherings include favorite stories and food that burn memories into our minds. Objects become triggers that take us back to a smell, a space and a time from long ago.
When I saw the ice cream bucket, I was there.
I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen watching her turn the hand-powered eggbeater. She whipped the eggs into a yellow foam before adding the vanilla, brown sugar, warm creamy milk and junket tablets.
When the oven door opened the house was filled with the smell of chocolate cake. As the ice cream mixture cooled, she covered the cake with her homemade brown sugar frosting. This was the way we did family gatherings in the hot, humid summers of Illinois.
When the cake was complete and the milky mixture cooled, it was time to bring out the guest of honor. The ice cream bucket. Then the ceremony began.
The ice cream mixture was poured into the tall metal inner canister. The canister was slid into the bucket and surrounded by ice and rock salt. The handle was assembled, and a blanket was folded on top.
The rusty handle fit every hand.
The hand of my grandfather as he turned and churned the milky richness inside.
The hand of my uncle as he packed ice and salt in the open space between the wooden slats and the metal cylinder, then taking over the chore and pleasure of the cranking.
The hand of my father as he impishly pushed his brother-in-law from the crank so he too could take credit for blending the anticipated delight.
My hands and the hands of my cousins, brother and sister joined as we struggled with joyous giggles, layering hand on top of hand to create the strength to turn the crank. Taking turns, we sat on the blanket covered throne watching the melting ice turn to cloudy saltwater and drizzle down the side.
And then, when all capacity to budge the handle even one more turn became impossible, more blankets were layered on top to allow the ice cream to become solid and our anticipation to grow.
When the time was right, the bucket was uncovered. My grandmother’s bony hands pulled the frosted silver chamber from the bucket, opening it to reveal the deliciousness of my childhood.
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Pennie’s Life Lesson: The simplicity of life becomes the boldest of memories.
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