A Pause for Ice Cream –or- “Midwestern Nice”

By Sarah White

I’m preparing to teach “Flash Memoir” in a few weeks. As a result, memories in short flashes have been coming to me recently. Here’s one.

Madison, Wisconsin, summer, 1980 or 1981.

A storefront scoop shop opened on Williamson Street just a few blocks from where my boyfriend and I lived in a coop house with our roommates. (In a few years he would become my husband.)

One night after dinner, we walked down to have a cone. We entered and paused, studying the menu of flavors. Before the bells hanging from the doorknob quit jingling, a woman came in with four or five young children around her. Something about her purposeful movement said “east coast”–or maybe just “harried mom.”

She walked up to the counter and began polling her children about their ice cream choices. Just as she was about to place their order, she noticed us standing to one side.

“Oh, were you in line first?” she said. “Here children, move aside—“

“Don’t worry about it,” Jim replied. “We were letting you go ahead. Seems like you’re in a hurry, and we’re not.”

“You need to learn to be more assertive!” she said, waving her children back.

A brief round of “Midwestern Nice” broke out in which we beckoned each other toward the waiting scoop clerk. The woman went ahead and ordered for her gaggle. Once everyone had been served, they left.

But they stayed with us ever since, a private joke and a punch line.

© 2018 Sarah White

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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