This past Sunday, I stopped at Beale’s on Route 25 outside Gorham for a mocha fudge ice cream cone. After plunking down three bucks and leaving 50 cents in the tip jar, I strolled back to my vehicle to savor my purchase, thinking about how this summertime treat has been part of my life ever since I can remember.

This favorite family tradition was started long ago by my parents, who were almost as religious about taking us to the Fair Haven Dairy Bar on Sunday afternoons as they were about getting us to Mass earlier in the day.

Since I was the oldest, I was often the one to stand at the Dairy Bar’s window with my father’s hard-earned dollar bill clutched in my hand, ready to issue the family’s order, a monumental task. My parents often made it easier by ordering the same thing, which was usually maple walnut, size large for 25 cents. Yet, sometimes, Dad had a hankering for butter brickle, or Mom craved orange pineapple or black raspberry. (I won’t soon forget the auspicious day my littlest sister discovered mint chocolate chip. I do believe it was the first time I beheld a human being in absolute ecstasy.)

I had my favorites, too, with chocolate and fudge ripple at the forefront, although occasionally I was in the mood for lemon or orange sherbet – and was thrilled beyond belief when rainbow sherbet was invented. I wasn’t as excited as the rest of the family when the Dairy Bar procured a soft ice cream machine, however. To this day, I feel strongly that ice cream should be hard and very cold, not soft and too quick to melt into a puddle.

What I remember most about those Sunday sojourns is how grown-up and responsible I felt, holding that dollar, as I stood in line amongst the townies and tourists. After carefully delivering the cones two at a time, and returning the dime in change, I sat in the car with the rest of the family while Dad regaled us with his stories.

We all had a lick of each other’s frozen treats and “kissed” our 10-cent, medium-sized cones, which meant bumping one another’s ice cream together gently, just enough to have a dollop of the different flavor against our own. When we were finished, Mom wiped us up with the wet washcloth she’d brought along. Then we headed for home, feeling satisfied beyond measure.

Years later, when I started a family of my own, I made it a point to carry on this fine Sunday tradition. Upon our arrival in Maine 26 years ago, one of my first missions was to find the nearest ice cream stand. Our family has its favorites, but the one we frequented most when my daughters were small was the Richmond Dairy Bar. After we moved from Bowdoinham to Topsham, we became regulars at Dairy Queen on Main Street, and one special summer my daughter Katie had the distinction of being employed at Cote’s in downtown Brunswick. You better believe we made many visits to that fine establishment and still do to this day.

Now that my girls have all grown up, and especially since my waist has grown a tad wider, I don’t eat ice cream every Sunday; but when I do, I can’t help but recall those long-ago, carefree days of my youth, how the pavement of the Fair Haven Dairy Bar parking lot warmed my bare feet and how for less than a dollar, our family of six feasted on the creamy, cool elixir of summer.

Karen Schneider is a freelance writer living in West Bath. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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