It was in the high 80s in downtown Saugatuck on Sunday and after too much arts-fartsy shopping I happily found myself in the most expensive ice cream shop with seven of my family members. The line was long, the air thick and filled with fudge, the decisions many: which of the 50 flavors to get? And which type of cone: plain, waffle or sugar?
My 2 neices—18 and 11—stepped right up and bravely ordered their ice cream on waffle cones. Almost immediately, their ice cream began dripping down the low side of their cones, and they had to turn their heads sideways to keep the ice cream from dripping onto the floor. I turned to find my sister-in-law licking quickly to keep ahead of the drippiness of her junior sized sugar cone. Nearby was my stepmother, Norma, holding my dad’s dripping sugar cone while she licked frantically at her own sugar cone. My father,15 feet away, was patiently waiting at the register for the last of our family’s cones to be scooped so that he might pay. I followed his frowny glance back to Norma, who was now wearing part of his ice cream on her hands. She stepped back up to the counter, asked for a cup and turned my father’s cone upside down in the cup. I handed Norma a napkin, and, realizing that other sugar and waffle cone-heads were in my midst, stuffed more napkins in my pocket.
I stepped outside with my plain cone, licking merrily as I noticed that my brother’s black mustache and beard had taken on a bit of white on either side of his mouth, as if his waffle cone had gotten the better of him. Nearby, Norma had peeled the wrapper off her sugar cone, only to discover a hole in the bottom. She suddenly had two choices: keep a finger on the bottom of the cone to keep it from dripping all over, or quickly alternate between licking from the top and sucking from the bottom. She chose the latter, and I had to step away to keep from laughing at her desperate attempt to eat as much oozing ice cream as possible.
I turned to find my younger niece decorated with chocolate from a waffle cone that seemed to be self-destructing in her hand. My older niece was fairing better by turning her face sideways to lick ice cream between bites of her waffle cone. My father finally emerged from the store with his upside down ice cream cup in one hand, his face all pouty because he lacked the two hands needed to remove the paper around his cone. I tucked my wallet between my legs, held his cup and watched as he unwrapped the paper from his sugar cone, only to discover a smear of white fuzz stuck to the side of the sugar cone where some of the paper was stuck. He suddenly had two choices: scrape the rest of the paper-fuzz off with a fingernail or, his choice, “Just eat the damn stuff.”
As he began slurping his melted ice cream with his spoon, I showed him how I could take my plain cone covered wrapper off with one simple twist of my hand and how nothing stuck to the side. He grunted in response. When I mentioned how plain cones are designed with a chunky handle that make them easy to hang onto, that they never leak from the bottom, and how the top is wide enough to properly support a scoop of ice cream, he sneered.
I turned to check on the rest of the family and saw nothing but smiling, ice cream covered faces around me. Then my stepdaughter, Holly, 20, appeared with her cup of ice cream, quietly sharing that she had been able to enjoy her ice cream while she continued shopping. Using a cup—free of any cone—resulted in her using one napkin like me. In comparison, the rest of my family needed extra napkins, which I handed out as I made my rounds one more time, while smiling at each messy face in turn.
I suppose eating ice cream on a hot summer day is supposed to be the happy, messy event I witnessed in Saugatuck with my family, and that Holly and I have it all wrong. So here’s to all the boneheads that choose paper-sticking, holey sugar cones and lop-sided, self-destructing waffle cones and make eating ice cream such a fun experience for us cup and plain cone people. Keep licking my messy friends.