I think you’ll recognize my narrator’s voice as a child. With the encouragement of Eileen (see her comment after the original “Ice Cream” post) I have edited the story down to the following:
Two of my favorite places for ice cream were about one hundred-fifty miles apart – one in Valleyfield, Québec, the other in Glen Tay, Ontario where Dad came from and not far from Mom’s home-town of Perth.
In Valleyfield the place to go was Stewart’s, a store in a row of factory houses. The shop filled much of the ground floor space with a small kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom where Margaret slept at the back. Margaret was one of the Stewart’s daughters. She lived in a wheelchair due to a serious case of childhood polio.
Margaret’s Mom and Dad were elderly and they lived upstairs. Mr. Stewart liked to help out in the store once in awhile, even though Margaret thought he counted change too slowly. I think it was mainly so he could eat humbugs without Grandma Stewart catching him.
The store always seemed dark because the walls were dark brown wood with only two windows up high but down at kids’ level there were all sorts of colors to see. There was a blue rack just inside the door with the Montreal Star, The Gazette and some French-language newspapers on it. The glass counter, where the cash register sat, went almost to the back. Inside were cigars, cigarettes, pipes, tobacco, Swiss army knives, pipe cleaners, lighters and golf balls and all sorts of other stuff. On the other wall were narrow racks where chips and cheese sticks and fresh bread was stashed.
When Margaret found out we were there for ice cream she would wheel herself backwards to the freezer. Sometimes she let me open the sliding glass windows that went back all the way into the freezer again.
Margaret pretended she didn’t know what flavor I liked and she would ask me if I was going to have my usual butterscotch cone. I would laugh and say, “No, silly” and she’d giggle and her belly would shake in her chair. “Oh, then it must be chocolate then,” she’d say. “Noooo”, I would squeal.
I needed to take a deep breath for this long word for the flavor I wanted.
“Neapolitan, please”, I said.
“Oh, of course Neapolitan – and remind me again why you like this kind?”
“Because,” I’d say, “there’s three flavors so even though Mom and Dad only let me have one scoop it’s almost like having three!”
Dad grew up on a small farm in Glen Tay on Christie Lake Road, also known as the Third Line. His house was made of wood and covered with an artificial brick. Since Grandma sold it in the early 1970s the property has looked terrible – very cluttered, the outer buildings falling down, with none of the gardens that my aunt tended so faithfully.
Straight across the road was the only store. (Glen Tay is so small they don’t even call it a village.)
Dad liked to tell stories about the store from when he was little. In those days people who lived in the house attached to the store had to connect anybody from all around who wanted to phone someone. So you’d call Nick’s mother (Nick is my Dad’s cousin and he lives in the house with the store and the phones. It was the Perth and Christie’s Lake Telephone Company, he said.)
Nick was usually working out the side door. He had a Super-test gas pump on the lawn and he stayed there and pumped gas and talked about boring stuff while his mother was inside helping people talk on the phone.
One or the other of them would sell stuff in the store near the phone machinery. They didn’t have as many flavors of ice cream as Stewart’s but it was in great big barrels from Chaplin’s Dairy. Yes Chaplin’s Dairy, my last name. Past Grandpa’s garage and past the big white house close to the road there was a road that goes up a hill towards the Tay River. That’s where Chaplin’s Dairy was. Big vans went out every morning to deliver milk to houses (both my grandmothers bought from them). They also sold chocolate milk which Aunt Iris still likes a lot but Mom says it will rot my teeth.
I don’t need three-flavored ice cream when I’m at Grandma’s. You know why? When I order a vanilla ice cream cone and Daddy buys a big tub of vanilla ice cream for Grandma it’s so we can help her eat the raspberries growing outside the back kitchen door. She says she can’t eat them all and Grandpa doesn’t want the crows to have them.
No problem Grandma. I’ll handle the berries with this ice cream.