Nothing expresses itself as the complete metaphor for indulgence as a day in late July.
A few years ago I noticed a new brand of cookies on the shelf at my local health food store. They were called Late July and I immediately snapped up two bags because I knew exactly what they meant. Not the gluttonous, never satisfied, all consuming indulgence of the immature, late July is taken in slowly in sips and spoonfuls and savored sweetly. In late July time holds its breath. In late July the sweltering daytime temperatures tell us to finish the chores before 11 am, and then retire gracefully to the veranda. In late July Leah’s Front Porch is magically transformed into Leah’s Veranda. We start to utter words like “y’all” and phrases like “Well I declare”. In late July we all whistle a little Dixie.
This particular late July is being ushered in by the spotlight of a super moon cycle, as if to say, “It’s time to get to know the secrets of after dark…here, I’ll show you.” Driven to the comfort of air conditioned interiors by day, something primal and restless awakens our senses and sends us out into the world when the lights go out in late July. Last night at midnight, I ventured forth.
It’s not often that I get to experience the intense heat of the day radiating from the ground beneath my feet hours after sunset. It only happens in late July that I can walk out of my back door and step into the night wearing nothing more than a bathrobe. The warmth of the night does nothing to quiet a momentary flutter of apprehension as I take on the heightened awareness of an animal that is easy prey for what might lurk in the shadows. My fears are laid to rest as out of those shadows emerges a familiar form, my dog Abbie. She will be my escort on this night in late July. Good girl.
The sight of a woman robed in white walking in the light of a midnight moon with her familiar companion, descendant of the wolf, might have aroused suspicions of the darkest sort in another age, but here I am safe from intrusive glances. Here I am truly at home.
I find a comfortable chair next to the pond and begin to listen to the sounds of the night. The nearby waterfall lulls me into a trance like state and I find myself transported to the timeless realm of childhood. I think of ice cream cones. Well not technically ice cream, something they called frozen custard. I am at The Dairy Queen.
The Dairy Queen, established in 1941, exploded on the post war landscape, I believe as a counterpoint to children’s nightmares about nuclear annihilation, and oh what a comfort it was. Summer vacation, a break from “duck and cover” drills at school and the opening of The Dairy Queen.
The Dairy Queen whipped up concoctions in artful form, fit for a king but only truly appreciated by a princess.
I was a Dairy Princess.
I don’t know how it is for little boys, but little girls have their secrets, their rituals. It’s how they learn to keep it all together until the time, as women, they assume their roll as quiet guardians of the space of all possibility. One such ritual is the prolonging, with agonizing precision, the ephemeral enjoyment of the ice cream cone.
Here is the Dairy Princess ritual:
- I enjoyed my Dairy Queen dipped in chocolate. I don’t know how they did it, but first they built the perfect swirl of custard, then with amazing dexterity somehow managed to turn the thing upside down and dip it ever so quickly into an immense vat of melted chocolate that when exposed right side up again hardened instantly into the thinnest imaginable shell of dark crunchy delight. The first step in the ritual of enjoying The Dairy Queen was observing the magic happen from the vantage point of tiptoe raised chin resting upon the cool Formica counter top jutting out from the open window of the Dairy Queen palace. The Dairy Princess clutches tightly in her sweat dampened hand the coveted dime, judiciously saved from the week’s fifty cent allowance for indulgence. Dairy Queen was an introduction into getting my priorities straight.
- First goes the curl, but not without some regret and after a moment’s pause for reflection on its perfect symmetry. The nip off of the curl is quick and merciful, exposing the creamy white delight for the first time.
- Probe ever so gently into the small cavity with the tip of the tongue trying not to dislodge any more chocolate around the perimeter which holds the soft custard in place…until as much custard as possible can be sampled, rolled on the tongue and approved.
- Gradually, ever so tenderly, dismantle the chocolate shell, nip by nip using only the front teeth. It was sheer agony during the forever summer when I didn’t have front teeth. I actually don’t remember how I did it then, I think the memory is just to painful.
- By now the custard is starting to melt. Take immediate action. Proceed downward to the top of the artfully designed cone which has a built in shelf to avert disastrous runoff should you linger too long on the chocolate part. Run your tongue quickly around the entire circumference at the lowest accessible portion of the custard, then proceed in a vertical sweeps of the tongue upwards all around forming the custard into a newly compacted pointed shape.
- Go to the top and consume the best way you can in a downward direction until the custard is relatively flush with the top of the cone. Then lick it absolutely flat.
- Begin cone consumption. Again, technically, The Dairy Queen cone was not a cone, or not a cone shape, it was more like a cup, an edible cup. It was a wafer of incredible durability and purpose in spite of its crispy delightful texture. The only part that got soggy was the little shelf which having served its purpose, is eaten off all around. Then the top crispy edges are nibbled uniformly all around until the custard once again presents itself to be immediately licked flat.
- Proceed alternately consuming cone, custard, cone, custard until the flat bottom is all there is left. Pop it in your mouth. Done.
Please note: If the above operation is performed precisely, no mop up or napkin is required afterward.
As it should be for a Dairy Princess.
The mournful cry of a train whistle echoing from the depths of the Feather River Canyon rouses me from my reverie.
Ask not for whom the train whistle blows, it blows to announce the safe return of the wandering heart.
Time for bed now. Goodnight, my dear Abigail. Sweet dreams.