Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Once More to the Sno-Cone Stand

In E. B. White's classic essay "Once More to the Lake," White takes his son to a lake in Maine that his own father used to take him to when he was a child. Reliving the experience through his son's eyes gives White a strange sense of deja vu:

We went fishing the first morning. I felt the same damp moss covering the worms in the bait can, and saw the dragonfly alight on the tip of my rod as it hovered a few inches from the surface of the water. It was the arrival of this fly that convinced me beyond any doubt that everything was as it always had been, that the years were a mirage and there had been no years. The small waves were the same, chucking the rowboat under the chin as we fished at anchor, and the boat was the same boat, the same color green and the ribs broken in the same places, and under the floorboards the same fresh-water leavings and debris—the dead helgramite, the wisps of moss, the rusty discarded fishhook, the dried blood from yesterday's catch.... There had been no years between the ducking of this dragonfly and the other one—the one that was part of memory.

I had a similar experience this evening, at Murray's Shaved Ice Shack after my daughter's softball game. It was about 8:00 p.m., mid-June in St. Louis. My daughter and I stood next to our car, which I'd parked in the gravel lot of an old-fashioned auto mechanic's shop right next to the sno-cone stand. The car was warm beneath me, but the day was cooling down. Breezes set the weedy-looking trees waving off in the distance .

As with White's lake experience, everything in the scene put me back into my childhood—the sweetness of the grape sno-cone (and the fact that we were at a sno-cone stand at all), the matching ball caps my daughter and I were wearing, the relaxed post-game feeling, the whine of crickets, the cool of the summer evening. Except now I was the dad, the one coaching the ball team, driving the car, buying the sno-cones, standing there towering above his child, mostly lost in his own inscrutable thoughts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My favorite is Gus & Yia-Yia's. Gus sets up an ice-ball cart on West Ohio Street in a park on the Northside of Pittsburgh, near my grandmother's house. He keeps huge blocks of ice in a van across the street and shaves them by hand. His slogan—"Ice-balls since your dad was a lad"—has been the same since my dad was a lad.,+Allegheny,+Pennsylvania&ll=40.451766,-80.011596&spn=0.001135,0.002256&t=h&z=19&layer=c&cbll=40.451883,-80.011906&panoid=ZN2u7P3mKRSQhy8NJ-k7Gw&cbp=12,1.76,,1,15.35