The Joy of Ice Cream for Dinner
For them, it was enough.
When I was a much younger version of myself and in my first year at university, I worked in the registrar’s office on campus. Several women—all full-time employees—ran the daily operations of that office. As a part-time student employee, I was under their supervision.
Much of my work fell under one woman (I’ll call her Jan) who was kind, and a joy to be around. She sometimes told us interesting stories of her life. One of those stories I have never forgotten.
Jan shared about the first time she was invited to her boyfriend’s parents’ house. He said, “We’re having homemade ice cream!!” She assumed, understandably, that the evening would also include dinner.
When they arrived, they joined the family in the backyard. Everyone sat around in lawn chairs, talking, and watching the children play. This was in the 1950s, meaning the ice cream was being made in a churn-by-hand kind of contraption. In other words, there was time to get acquainted with the family while they waited.
As they visited, the ice cream churning on and on, Jan began to wonder where dinner was.
She only saw fixings for ice cream laid out on the table. She had not eaten anything before coming, and her stomach was telling her to eat. Quietly, she leaned over to her then-boyfriend (who later became her husband) and asked, “When’s dinner?” He looked at her with surprise and said, “When the ice cream is ready!”
It became clear to Jan that it was perfectly normal for them to have only homemade ice cream for dinner. As she told the story, she remembered it was quite the festive atmosphere on an otherwise normal summer evening. Children and adults alike obviously looked forward to those gatherings—and to homemade ice cream for dinner. Jan said, “For them, it was enough!”
Family cultures are different. What is perfectly normal for one may seem quite strange to another. I do not think I have ever heard of another family who would plan, on purpose, to have homemade ice cream for dinner. But, if this is common for you and your people, then you may think me the strange one.
In a world full of picture-perfect expectations of what our lives should look like, I offer this suggestion.
Do not be afraid to do something outside the box of what lifestyle websites or influencers tell you is the right thing. If you are anything like me, you’re worn thin by trying to serve up perfect, homemade, four-course meals to the family. Every. Night.
When our children were young, with husband and me both working full-time outside the house, I came upon the most wonderful realization. My family were often more interested in a tuna salad sandwich and chips than a meal that took me an hour to prepare, plus another hour to clean up.
Today, it is just the two of us, and while I do still prepare home cooked meals, they usually include meat and a side. I do not remember when I last prepared a four-course-or-more meal, unless it was Thanksgiving or Christmas. To be honest, one of our favorite things to do is pour tortilla chips on a plate, sprinkle on shredded cheese from a bag, pop it in the microwave, and call it dinner.
All those years ago, Jan ended her story with this. “As the years went by, I learned to appreciate those summer evenings with my husband’s family. I even got to where I did not need a snack before we left for my in-law’s house. I knew I would get to have all the homemade ice cream I wanted.”
I think we could say Jan learned the joy of ice cream for dinner.
May we all find such joy in the simple things of life. And may it bring us new appreciation of the time spent with those we love.
This post first appeared in More Than A Church Girl: 100 Stories of Life, Faith, and Family by Karlene Arthur. The book is available on Amazon.