Nostalgia in a Waffle Cup

Originally posted to Odyssey, July 5, 2016

Like many Americans, most of my fondest memories are centered around food. Birthday cakes, pizza parties, Thanksgiving pumpkin pies and those awesome churros from Universal Studios are just a few examples. Desserts tend to hold a special place in my heart, memories, and stomach. One dessert in particular, however, has a gold-plated and jewel-encrusted freezer in each of those sanctuaries: the Birthday Cake Remix from Cold Stone Creamery.

Some people say exercise or gardening (my dad’s personal favorite) is good for the soul. But since I was six, Birthday Cake Remix has been my solace from the world. After a long and grueling day of First Grade, nothing soothed my weary, anxious heart more than warm brownie chunks, enchanting rainbow sprinkles and decadent chocolate syrup, all enveloped in a glorious bear hug of cake batter ice cream. The Cold Stone Creamery attached to the Kangaroo gas station was just down the street from my school. And, as only God could have so perfectly orchestrated, we had to pass it to drive home. Almost every day we stopped by, rain or shine, sweltering heat or blistering cold–maybe that’s what led me to realize my untapped potential to be a mailman. It wasn’t long before the angels behind that giant glass case of goodness noticed I was a regular. I would walk in and be greeted with “Birthday Cake Remix, right?” I’m sure my crooked grin could have lit up a whole city block. But it wasn’t just ice cream I got a Cold Stone that made it special, it was the memories, too.

From sun-soaked days lounging outside with my mom, watching the cars whizz past, to cheering on my sister as she expertly maneuvered the claw machine in the gas station, with ice cream dripping down my fingers as my grandmother watched close by, that ten-minute window of time became precious. As with any eight-year-old, I fought with my siblings constantly. Especially my twin sister. One such squabble grew so nasty that our godmother had to rush us both outside to escape the disdain of the other customers.

It was there, splitting a Love-it sized Birthday Cake Remix in a waffle cup, that I learned the difference between grace and mercy. It was there I learned the power of forgiveness. After that Cold Stone closed down (even though I would have paid every cent to my name to keep it open), we turned to the Cold Stone on the University of Alabama’s campus. When I was eleven, though, we moved across town. Somehow–I guess God understood my spiritual ties to Cold Stone by then–we ended up just two miles down the road from it. I made even more memories there: talking about if I’d ever say “I love you” to someone with a friend, celebrating another Alabama football victory after the game and sprinting two blocks in the pouring rain with friends just to get that irresistible delicacy.

It was a chilly day in October when my older brother took me and my sister there after school. It was the last day of his fall break, the day before he would leave again for college in far-off Pennsylvania. My brother never did that sort of thing back then (though I do remember several jam sessions in the car on the way home from Cold Stone later). Now I don’t even remember what we talked about, sitting there shivering outside in clunky metal chairs too heavy to move and always a mix of mysteriously and uncomfortably sticky. I do remember it was special. It was a silent gesture that he would miss us, too. Sadly, that Cold Stone also closed down recently for unknown reasons (unknown to me, at least). And as I passed those blank glass doors, just barely able to make out the scraped away outline of the name above the awning, I realized it was the end of an era.

“Gone, but not forgotten.”

We all have those certain moments in our lives, the ones tied to things that at first are so inconsequential but later become so cherished. For most people, this may be a dear family recipe made on special occasions, or a favorite spot to go spend time with loved ones. For me, those moments happened to have taken place over a Like-it sized cup of Birthday Cake Remix from Cold Stone Creamery.

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