The Rememberance of Things Past

on 26 July 2010

Proust had his madeleines.

And I suppose everyone has something.  That one thing that in a bite or a whiff, or a hum can ferry you back across the river of time to a place and a version of yourself long gone and perhaps partially forgotten.

Proust has his madeleines.  Proust is very French.  Very fancy and sophisticated.

I am neither French nor Fancy.  I have Brown Cows.

What's a Brown Cow?  Forsooth.  I am loathe to think how dark and miserable your childhoods were in the absence of Brown Cows.

A Brown Cow is, what my eloquent Grandmother would call, ice cream on a STICK.  It is a softish vanilla ice cream coated in chocolate.

(Of course, if I were being honest instead of nostalgic right now I would tell you that it's processed vanilla ice cream sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar and flavored with imitation vanilla and the chocolate isn't real chocolate per se but waxy chocolate often used to coat things of questionable nutritional value, like donuts, ice creams on a stick and most Hostess of Little Debbie products.  But I AM being nostalgic so you're going to over-look ALL of this and go back to reading my meditations on the Brown Cow.)

Mayfields, the makers of said Brown Cows, they operate out of Tennessee and don't have a very wide distribution area so their products aren't readily available, even in the South.  Durham, for example is too far east to find much Mayfields.  Brunswick?  Forget about it.  Doesn't exist down here.  But over in the mountains?  Yes.  Oh bless my little health conscious heart, they have Mayfields.  So, on our trip into town for groceries I picked up a box.  Just one box.  To share and savor with my Boy.

We dine with abandon in the mountains.  No thought whatsoever is given to nutritional content or what has been previously consumed throughout the day.  And so our meals are often strange but inevitably delicious as they're consumed in the open air and often with our hands.  After dinner comes dessert.  Even my young boy knows that...and his dessert is more often than not, enjoyed nearly naked (as his bath always immediately follows dessert).

And so, with him partially stripped we tore open a Brown cow and sat on the porch together, one fine summer evening.

One bite and he had this astonished look of childhood wonder on his face.  One bite and I was right there with him...but also not with him at all.

I was far away in that long ago time and that long forgotten version of myself.  I was in a small house at the edge of a dirt road surrounded by tobacco fields.  My Grandpa's house.  We would drive out to visit him and he would give us quarters to go to the Piggly-Wiggly to buy Brown Cows.  We would light out of the car, happy to be free, and dart into the house like two dragonflies, hop up into Grandpa's lap.  We'd give him hugs and he'd pay us off with quarters.

With that one bite I could smell the dirt road and his living room--cigarette smoke and peppermint.  I could see the wood floor and old fashioned television so clearly in my mind it was as if I could walk across the campground and into that very room.  I could see my Grandpa there, in that one bite of ice cream, with his wispy strawberry blond hair gone grey just at the edges and his face lined and wrinkled from working in the sun.

And in that one bite I could feel myself a child again, with no worries or concerns, very few fears and no responsibilities.

And that's when I realized, that it's that feeling that we work so hard to give our children.  Not big toys and grand vacations, not expensive clothes and fancy playthings.  I want the Boy to feel like feel free from tension and worry and concern and anxiety.  I want him to be fearless and happy--regardless of how much money we may or may not have, regardless of where we live and work and play.

It came back by bits that week...with each subsequent Brown Cow I would remember different things.

My sisters--Sherry used to have this old orange VW beetle and it was of such questionable functionality that once she got it started she couldn't necessarily turn it OFF because there were no guarantees she'd get it going again.  Once she took me to the Post Office with her and left me in the beetle with strict instructions to keep my foot lightly on the gas and if it seemed like the beetle was gasping, I was to nudge the pedal just a bit.  I used to crawl into bed with Sherry when I'd have nightmares, so there's very little in this world I wouldn't do for her.

Our back patio was surrounded by honeysuckle and my brother and I used to strip off the blossoms and suck out the nectar when it bloomed.  We roamed our neighborhood like feral cats, barefooted and in everyone's yard.  I don't think we EVER used the sidewalks...we just strolled through their yards like we owned the place.

We used to go camping as a family over in Cades Cove.  It's beautiful and green.  My dad would warn us that there were bears in the area but I'm fairly certain that my brother and I just ran wild like the little heathens that we were.  Bears, schmears.  There were two of us after all and lots of adults seemed fairly frightened of us when they talked to our Mom.  As well they should be...

It's only the happy memories came back.  I had to sit and think about my childhood later on to remember the things that made me sad.  I wonder if that's a blessing of time or a willful choice to exile those memories to uninhabited corners of my mind.  Maybe we'll never know...I haven't yet found the something that brings back sad memories.


Sibley Saga .... said...

That's so sweet!

AND funny compared to my childhood memories. I remember going to my Aunt Thelma's and Uncle Cliff's and she would sit us down at her formica covered table to serve us "purple cows". They basically were glasses full with scoops of vanilla ice cream covered with concord grape juice. Strange, you say? Maybe. But they were oh so yummy. You could slurp them like yummy root beer floats, only better. And PURPLE!!

Cel and JP said...

huh. I always thought a brown cow was a milkshake. how deprived I've been.