Oh, how I remember! The summer sun was beating down on our little Texas town. Even the leaves seemed to droop and yield to the stifling heat. I don’t even remember there being any shade…anywhere! It was mid-July and we were 20 days into to what would be a record for consecutive 100 plus temperature days. There would be 47 of them before all was said and done, but this one day is the one that sticks out in my memory…
“Jimmy, you go out on the porch and help your grandfather. He’s about ready.”
“Oh, Mom, do I have to? It’s so hot out there…why…there’s no air to breathe. The flies aren’t even moving.”
I stood with my faced pressed against the old, screen door and the wood frame groaned against the hook. I watched Gramps shuffle around, scooting this and that across the painted, wooden floor. The porch was old and leaned badly. Gramps leaned worse. I could feel the oscillator fan push a little air against my bare back. It wasn’t cool, but it was at least stirring things up and I knew that as soon as I stepped through the door I’d feel nothing but the raw heat of the day.
Why in the heck is Gramps out there…and gathering things up like he’s on some kind of a mission? I’d rather stay inside and help Mom clean a chicken…anything…
“Jimmy, you gonna stand there and watch me or do you plan on helping me with this thing?”
“I’m coming Gramps,” I grumbled.
“Good. If you’ll put the bucket on the table there, I’ll get the crank.”
“Okay, boys, here’s the fixings.” The screen door creaked as Mom handed me the canister filled with her homemade vanilla ice cream recipe. It was cool to the touch and the contents sloshed about as I carefully placed it beside the wooden freezer. Gramps lifted the lid.
“Oooh, get your nose over that, boy. Just like your Grandma used to make it. Pains my sweet tooth just to smell it, but it’s missing the most important ingredient.”
“You want me to tell Mom?”
“No…no…well get around to that. Let’s just get to cranking.”
Gramps looked down at me like only he could do. His grin was infectious and, when he scrunched up the side of his face with that way overdone wink, I always broke out in a smile. I couldn’t help it. It was like the sides of my mouth were tied to his cheek with a string. He winked. I smiled…puppet-like. It still happens to this day. All I have to do is think about that wink and his funny grin and I smile like a little boy…I become a little boy…all over again.
Gramps poured some ice, then some salt, then some more ice into the bucket and around the sides of the canister and I started to crank.
“Slow down, boy. You’re gonna melt the ice.” He winked. I smiled.
We took turns cranking that old handle. Each time the ice retreated, Gramps added a little more, then more salt. He’d wink, I’d smile and crank.
“Yes, son. Don’t stop cranking, now. You can talk and crank at the same time, can’t you?” He winked. I smiled.
“Why don’t we get us one of those ‘lectric freezers like Uncle Ed has?”
“Good question, son.” He stood up straight and rubbed his chin. “They sure get the job done in a hurry, don’t they?”
“Sure do, Gramps, and the ice cream seems just as good to me.”
“Nah…nah…never liked that ‘lectric made ice cream much.”
“Aw, Gramps, it tastes just the same and you know it.”
“Nope, not to me. It’s missing the most important ingredient.”
I pushed on the crank one last time with all my might, but it didn’t budge.
“I think it’s done, Jimmy.”
Gramps leaned over and pulled the lid from the canister. It yielded its frozen breath and the smell…well…heavenly is the only thing that comes to mind. Gramps stuck a crooked finger down through the frozen crust and made a loud slurping sound as he tasted the sample.
“What about the missing ingredient?”
“It’s not missing anymore.”
“C’mon, Gramps, we didn’t add anything.”
“Oh, yes we did…you did…Jimmy.”
“And, just exactly what was that, Gramps?”
“Work and patience, son. Work and patience!”
Gramps winked. I smiled.
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