Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Fun

School is out, and even if the weather has been more spring-like than usual, we’re all in the mood for everything that’s special about summer. 

I remember summer fun when I was young. We’d play “house” for hours in the shade of the shelter belt trees. Sometimes, after a rain shower, we’d wade in the ditches and pick up snails. We called them “sea shells”. Mom hated finding them in our pockets when she was about to throw our coveralls into the wash machine.

I once asked my mom what she did in summer when she was a girl. It turns out she played “house” much the same as I did. Her mother made the dolls she played with. She sewed body and head shapes from muslin and embroidered yarn faces on them.

Mom and her sisters used old broken plates and cups and empty sardine cans for their “dishes,” much as we did. And we both remember making lots of mud pies. My sisters and I were pretty good at decorating them with bits of grass and leaves. 

Another thing we had in common was our love of ice cream as a summer treat. However, obtaining it was much different in her day compared to my childhood.

For one thing, her family didn’t have an ice cream freezer with a handy crank. They started with a five gallon tub for the ice and salt. 

The ice cream mixture was poured into an empty gallon syrup can with the lid replaced securely. Then they pushed the syrup can down into the tub of ice and, using the handle on the can, turned the pail back and forth half turns.

Every once in a while, they had to remove the can, take off the lid, and scrape the frozen ice cream mixture off the sides of the can and into the middle. Then they’d replace the lid and repeat the turning process. It must have taken a lot of time and muscle to enjoy ice cream those days

The ice they used came from their ice house, a building I remember seeing when I was a very little girl. It was originally the sod house my great-grandparents built when they homesteaded on their farm. After they built a wooden house for themselves, they dug out the floor of the sod house to a depth of five or six feet. 

During the winter, the men cut blocks of ice from ponds and stacked them into the sod house with layers of straw between and a thick layer over the top. Mom said they usually had ice until well into June.

I guess I’m glad I live in a day when ice cream is as handy as a trip to the store, summer or winter. But I wonder if we appreciate it now as much as my mom did when it came with a whole lot more work and, certainly, anticipation.

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