I am the opposite of a creature of habit. I never buy the same laundry detergent twice. I switch breakfast cereals each time I replenish my supply. I have never repeated the same nail polish color within a two-month time span.
But there is one thing in this world about which I am completely consistent: Baskin-Robbins ice cream. I have ordered the same two flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream since I was seven years old; mint chocolate chip and pralines ’n cream. These two flavors are not only the finest ice cream flavors on the planet, but they are also the flavors that bring me back to everything beautiful from my childhood. (And there wasn’t a lot of beauty back in Lincolnwood, Illinois.)
We used to go to the Baskin-Robbins store on Touhy Avenue that was owned by a sweet older man named Mr. Marmelstein. I remember the first time I tasted the icy delight, the first time my top scoop plummeted off the apex of my sugar cone, the first time I saw my dad relish in ice cream heaven. My mom’s favorite flavor was jamoca almond fudge, dad never strayed from rum raisin, and Grandpa Irwin was a butter pecan man. Baskin-Robbins was the one place in the world where things were constant, and you always got exactly what you wanted.
I do remember one frightful visit where peer pressure from my gaggle of tween gal pals persuaded me to order pink bubblegum instead of one of my trusted favorites. I regretted it instantly. Once I discovered the first nugget of bubble gum and started chewing, I had a horrible realization. How could I chew and lick at the same time? It was a conundrum of epic proportion. The more gumlets I uncovered, the less pleasurable my ice cream lapping became. It may have been the only time in my life that I failed to finish a double scoop of my American gelato treat. It wasn’t until several years ago that my husband, Mark, schooled me in how to eat pink bubble gum ice cream. “You pull out the pieces of gum and spit them into a cup,” he said with a tone that screamed of shock at my obvious childhood idiocy. “Then when you finish the ice cream you chew the gum.”
I don’t think it would have mattered one bit had I known the proper pink bubble gum protocol. It was still a betrayal of my mint chocolate chip and pralines ’n cream faves that I would have to live with for the rest of my life. Since then I have never strayed from my tried and true ice cream BFFs.
Cut to today. My eldest son, Levi, got all four wisdom teeth out. It was a traumatic experience for my 17-year-old son who has never met a medical procedure that didn’t totally freak him out. I stocked the freezer with plenty of B-R. On the way home from the oral surgeon I asked Levi if he wanted me to stop for a milkshake. “Reary mom?” he asked, his mouth full of gauze, “Dat ould ee great.” I assumed he’d want a mixture of chocolate fudge and Gold Medal Ribbon, his obvious favorites. But when I asked him just to double check, he seemed uncertain.
I was stunned. I figured it had to be on account of the anesthesia. Clearly, it was messing with his brain. But he explained in his mealy-mouthed stupor that he could never pick favorites of Baskin-Robbins ice cream because there were so many delicious flavors and that B-R was always introducing more. I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t have favorites? How was this young man related to me?
He ended up ordering a chocolate fudge/Gold Medal Ribbon milkshake because the choices were too overwhelming. I wondered if that was the reason I’d never tried the other 29 flavors. Maybe I was just too scared to take a risk when I knew how much I adored my favorite flavors.
Or maybe I just buckled under the weight of such a pivotal decision. Perhaps I had mistakenly judged my risk-averse behavior as unwavering loyalty. I suddenly didn’t know myself at all. It was frightening.
“Aren’t ou gonna get some?” Levi asked as I readied to pay for his shake. “Of course,” I assured him. I just needed to decide what to order. I sampled pistachio almond, Mississippi mud and York Peppermint Patty. It was a tough choice. They were all delicious. A line was forming behind me and I started to feel pressured to make a quick decision. “I’ll have a…a… double scoop of…um…well…um…mint chocolate chip and pralines ’n cream,” I blurted out feeling half ashamed and half proud of my steadfast allegiance.
Levi looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and a knowing grin, “Ood choice, om,” he snickered as we walked back to the car.