Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ice Cream for Aunt Alice

Every summer for the last fifteen years or so, my mother and her younger sister, Grandma Hip, rent a cottage in or near Charlestown, RI, near a beach. My mom's (and now my aunt's) good friend Bethie completes the trio that hang out at the cottage, spending mornings and evenings at the beach, "going on a toot" as they call a drive around the area, sharing the crossword in the Providence Journal, buying corn, tomatoes, and pies at the farm stands all around, stopping for ice cream along the way.

All kinds of people come down to the cottage during the three weeks they're ensconced there. My cousins come and go in waves, some overnight, some just for the day, and Grandpa Hip and his youngest (the youngest of all of us cousins) spend their days off down there. Grandma Hip's brother-in-law and his wife and their children and grandchildren usually get a place nearby. My mom's older brother, UD, used to go for days at a time starting political discussions just to get a rise out of everyone. My Aunt Alice would go as well, though she was the only one who never went to the beach. Everyone in the family really enjoys the water, and synchronized swimming, which Mom and Grandma Hip did in high school, has become one of our favorite water pasttimes, buffeted by the waves. But Aunt Alice rarely even came to the beach. She probably enjoyed being the cottage by herself.

I was there in 2002, and one night Grandma Hip, Bethie, Mom, aunt Alice, and I went to a big Italian restaurant for dinner. I introduced Grandma Hip to the Appletini that night, and we had a long leisurely meal with cocktails and appetizers. After the server had taken our empty dinner plates away, she came back to ask if we would like dessert. The rest of us ordered off the menu, but Aunt Alice demurred. The server asked, "Are you sure?" Mom said, "Maybe they have ice cream, Alice." The server said that they did indeed have ice cream, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and strawberry. Aunt Alice, a small woman, looked up at the server and said, "May I have a dish of vanilla ice cream please, with some hot fudge sauce if you have it?"

Aunt Alice passed away a couple weeks ago, and though it was expected and my mom was with her, it's been hard. The evening of the day we learned she'd passed away, No, KT, and I met at Fenton's Creamery. It seemed like to eat ice cream would be the best way to honor her memory, and it was.

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