Bitter Sweet Treat

You just never know when childhood memories will jump up and ask you to dance….

Last night I visited Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors with a friend. While waiting in line to order, I noticed the freezer full of ice cream novelties and cakes. There, on a shelf near the bottom of the freezer were trays of Clowney Cones in all their joyful color and sugary frosted goodness! My heart turned back-flips straight into my early childhood.

(In case you’ve never seen a Clowny Cone, it is a scoop of ice cream in a clear cup with a sugar cone placed upside down on top of the scoop. The whole thing is then decorated with cake frosting and candies to look like a happy little circus clown head. They are a circus party waiting to happen all on their own).

When I was a kid, there were subscription services for everything–not unlike now, except without the internet. There were magazine and music subscriptions (cassette tapes–not mp3’s), how to books, and collections of chapters to fill 3-ring binders with tabbed dividers for each section. Each month you’d get 5 or 6 pages, tapes, and bonus materials sometimes–patterns, templates and such. The pages were full color glossy photos and complete instructions for projects, recipes and more. These kinds of projects files, along with magazine and newspaper clippings were the pinterest and instructables of my childhood.

But last night, the one that stood out in my memory most was highlighted by the pink decor and bright lights of Baskin Robbins’. Among other subscriptions, Grandmother had, at some point, subscribed to or been given a plastic case filled with full color recipe cards. It featured all the categories of an 8 course meal and more. Everything you could want to cook in a 1980’s kitchen. The case was designed like a flip file. You could thumb through the tabbed dividers to find the section you wanted and pull the card for your chosen culinary delight. It was indexed so that you could replace it in the correct order when you finished cooking. It was designed to make everyone look like a gourmet cook, effortlessly. Why wouldn’t you use it for every meal? Every party? That was another mystery of my childhood…along with why were harvest gold and avocado green such popular decorating colors in the 70’s and 80’s? And why was there shag carpeting EVERYWHERE? But I digress.

She stored this box of wonders out of the way on a low shelf, easily within my reach. I spent hours browsing through it’s many enchanting sections. My favorite section was the dessert section. Everything in it was bright, colorful and dreamy looking. As an only child, with hours to fill on rainy days, I spent plenty of time browsing through this mystical recipe box. I longed for the delights in the dessert section, with all their color and pizzaz. I asked for them to be made, offering to help too. Anything to bring them to life in our kitchen. Whether it was my favorite image or not, I no longer know, but the card I remember most clearly now is the one with the clowney cones. The image had faded into the mists of childhood until I saw them smiling back at me from the freezer at Baskin Robbins.

I understand now, as a busy mom with work, household and other responsibilities pulling at me from minute to minute, why she never made the clowney cones or the other labor-intensive treats for me. The impracticality of time, money, space in the freezer that no modern family really has, even if there was money to buy the supplies in the first place, speaks loud and clear to me.

But back then, in Grandmother’s kitchen, I believed in infinite possibilities, and in her magical ways. After all, she’d proven time and time again that she could make anything, everything out of nearly nothing. So I could not see any reason at all why Clowny Cones might never manifest themselves in my life. To my knowledge, she never cooked any of the recipes in the magical box.

At some point, I must have rescued the box from a yard sale or donation box. I don’t remember how it passed into my hands. This was one of the treasures of my childhood, so of course I wanted to keep it! I did cook some of the dishes in there, but somehow I never got around to creating my own Clowny Cones. Probably for the same practical reasons she had. But 7-year old me still sits in dumbfounded disappointment. We’ve never had a Clowny Cone all our own, after all. I’m not sure what I’d do with it if I did get one. That’s so much sugar! Says the adult me. Still the memory of the image itself is so sweet and so vivid. The vision, the idea, the anticipation–all more magical than the reality must be.

So, although it’s bittersweet to see the Clowny Cones all lined up in their trays at Baskin Robbins, I am content to know they exist. I am blessed with memories sweeter and longer lasting than those temporary treats on the trays. And, I have this dusty box full of treasures just waiting for me to cook them, right?

Until the next dance of memories, stay sweet!

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