We lived in Houston for the first few years of my life. Because it never really got cold in Texas, I am not able to tell you the actual season of my first memories. It was warm, I can tell you that much. It was always at least warm, or maybe I just imprinted memories of climate differently as a child. Could my brain have mollified the sweltering, oppressive heat (or likewise the frigid cold) into softer weather? Maybe. Whatever the reason for the warm climatic backdrop, all my happy memories of early childhood have a summery feel to them. Below are a few snippets of those days.
I am two-something, I think, which would make it 1982-ish. Mom and I are at a garden (Ours? I don’t know). As she’s weeding, she plucks a beautiful pink orb from in the ground, dusts it off, and takes a bite.The resounding crunch mystifies me. It is a radish, she tells me. I think she is brave to eat it! Her superhero status is elevated further when she picks up a garter snake to show me. She hands me the tiny green creature, which writhes slowly in my hands. It is smoother and less slimy than I imagined, and its powerful tickly slithering makes me laugh.
I am in the kitchen with Mom. A record is playing in the background while we finger-paint the kitchen floor. Even at three, I feel this activity is special. I am a conservative kid, not one to make a huge mess. [A few years later I will attach a shimmery butterfly sticker to the VCR, but I’ll honestly believe it improves the look of the hulking gray box.] The idea of painting on the floor is at once both exhilarating and scary. When we’re done, Mom brings out a mop and cleans up the mess quickly while dancing a little jig to the tunes (like it never happened, as Nate is fond of saying). Whether it’s playing jacks with my dad or helping my mom kneed bread dough, I like being in the kitchen.
I am with Dad in the driveway. He is building something. There is music playing again, probably the Dead, and he’s singing along. I can hear his voice even over the loud buzz of the circular saw. The sawdust flies toward me and the air fills with the scent of pressure-treated wood. I am holding some nails for him and trying not to drop them because this task feels important. I am a good helper, he tells me. I feel proud.
I am enjoying an orange sherbet Flintstones push pop with my grandmother while we walk back from the convenience store up the street. She is asking me to keep up, but I am only half listening. I am lost in a panicked moment of trying to stop the goo from melting onto my hand. I hand it to her to fix, which she does easily. Then she gives it back to me all tidy and right, and she takes my moist, sticky hand in hers for the walk home. I feel loved.
Though we were probably fairly poor by modern standards, I never lacked in toys or adventures. Because of that modest start, I am aware that the very best pleasures can be simple and try to give my kids the gift of simple pleasures when I can. Knowing firsthand that a pot and spoon can make great toys, I see anything from a cardboard box to a pile of sticks as the key to a great adventure.
One such adventure–a kitchen project that’s both easy and delicious–is making popsicles (I refuse to capitalize eponyms, despite my spellcheck’s desire to do so). Thanks to Molly of Orangette for reminding me how fun these treats can be to make (and, oh man, now she’s got fudgesicles on my mind). I hope my kids will someday recall the whir of the blender and the smell of the fruit juice with that particular fondness a summer memory can contain.
The geese and changing leaves tell me it is more fall than summer here (except for the sudden spot of humidity yesterday, gah), but I am not yet resigned to decorative gourd season. I will go on making frozen pops until we need to break out the hoodies. Below are two recipes for pops we like, an adult version and a kid version. These recipes will make two and four pops, respectively, which in my family fits our tastes and six-pop Zoku mold perfectly.
Irish Coffee Pops for Grown-Ups (adapted from this recipe)
makes 2 pops
1/4 c. TJ’s iced coffee concentrate
1/2 c. whole milk
2 Tbs. Bailey’s Irish Cream
sugar as desired
Stir together ingredients in a glass measuring cup. Taste and sweeten with sugar as desired. It is sweet enough for our taste as is. Pour into molds. Freeze as directed (6-8 hours, usually).
Fruit Creamsicles for Any Age (adapted from this recipe)
makes 4 pops
3/4 c. homemade or store-bought fruit juice (we used Trader Joe’s 100% cherry)
3/4 c. whole milk
2 Tbs. heavy cream
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Stir together ingredients in a glass measuring cup. Pour into molds. Freeze as directed (6-8 hours, usually).