Ice Cream Memories
By Kay Brown
The Waynesville Drive-In had the biggest ice cream cones any of us had ever seen. Located right outside Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, the little dive became a Mecca for our family after church on muggy summer nights in 1969. That year, I learned to love going to church. My dad was no fool; ice cream is a powerful motivator.
I turned 13 that summer and discovered that I was attracted to huge, chocolate, soft-serve ice-cream cones almost as much as I was attracted to teen-aged boys. I had not been exposed to either one very much before that year. Life was good.
Although there was a long-standing, "No Public Display of Affection," policy at our junior high school, the young man seeking my attention had managed to hold my hand for almost three minutes at school right before we got out for summer break. Of course, we were caught, they reported us to the principal and Frank got three swats – maybe it was one swat for each minute of handholding ecstasy. He took his swats bravely, like a man. I was crying so hard (anticipating the additional spanking I would get from my dad at home) that the principal disgustedly waved me out, unpunished.
Frank Scherer was actually a good kid from a good family. Boyish and cheerful, he was shy and respectful to my whole family. We all liked him. He had been attracted to my lime-green, double-knit, bell-bottom pantsuit and matching eye shadow. Gold-rimmed granny glasses completed the ensemble and accentuated my Kermit-hued eyes in a way that apparently made me irresistible. Could you blame him? I was a fashion queen.
The Sunday night my dad offered to take Frank to church, I thought we might end up getting married. I had watched enough "Love, American Style," to know the score. A simple invitation to have ice cream afterward often led to a whole lot more. As I got ready to go with Dad to pick Frank up for the service, I was considering which flowers I might like at the wedding. I was very spiritual.
That night, the pastor showed a movie and all of the teenagers sat together. My almost-declared future husband sat on my left. Then, much to my embarrassment, Jackie DeMarco poured his lanky body into the pew on my right. Jackie was dangerously 14, practically had actual muscles and used the word, "Babe," often when speaking to young women – a real James Dean type. Have you ever been terrified and yet captivated by someone? He did that to me.
I have never understood exactly what happened that night. I do recall I never saw a single frame of whatever film they were showing. When it started, I was practically engaged to the kind and sincere Frank Scherer. Before it was over, I was surreptitiously planning to meet the greasy, worldly, Jackie DeMarco the next morning at the skating rink to begin a new, exciting life of teen-aged intrigue.
Frank, fresh from the experience in the principal’s office, was a perfect gentleman during the movie. Jackie, on the other hand, was not. Covertly, using the finest in 8th grade James Bond technique, he not only held, but also passionately kissed my trembling hand in the darkened church. My adolescent heart could barely stand the excitement, the danger – the thrill of forbidden touch. I almost died. Mentally, I called the wedding off.
Frank was history.
On the way home from church that night, we stopped for those incredible cones just as we always did. Because Frank was with us, it should have been a joyous occasion, but because my affections had strayed, I felt too guilty to enjoy anything. The shame was overwhelming. I avoided his disgustingly tender 13-year-old gaze, ignored his childish jokes and became annoyed at the way my siblings and parents took pleasure in his company. I was miserable.
The next morning, I dressed in my sultriest button-up long-sleeved shirt and plaid bell-bottoms. Resolutely removing Frank’s ring, I put it into an envelope with a beautifully written rejection letter to be delivered by my brother as soon as I left the house. With a decidedly Matahari-type toss of my freshly ironed hair, I left for the rendezvous and my new, exciting life.
The rink was crowded. Gary Puckett sang, "Girl, You’re a Woman Now," over the loudspeaker. Expectantly, my eyes combed the crowd for my new amore. There he was! Our eyes met. I waved excitedly. He grimaced and looked away.
Jackie was skating with his arm tightly around the waist of a new girlfriend! She was about fifteen years old, blonde, and had a cigarette hanging out of her reddened lips. In addition, she had breasts.
I was history.
Gulping back horrified sobs, I ran all the way to my house and desperately searched for – you guessed it – the envelope with Frank’s ring. But it was too late; it had been delivered. The relationship was over and never again would I know the charm of Frank’s profusely sweating palms. Never again would I trust a male who used the word, "Babe," in casual conversation. Never again would I sever a relationship before another one was secure. Painfully, this girl had become a woman, now. I had learned my lesson.
But I still like ice cream.
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