The Sweetest Ice Cream


From my younger years ...

I was 12 years old in 1988. A Sunday after church my dad dropped off me, my younger sisters Song and Rasmee at Kmart.  He rewarded me $10.00 for having good grades and said I could use that money to buy us something from the store. He took my other younger siblings home and told me to save $0.25 to call him using the payphone to come pick us up when we were done. 

We were so excited. It was our first time at Kmart without our parents. It was our first time we could look through the store as hopeful kids and buy something of our choosing.

My sister Rasmee (age 8) and Song (age 10) both picked out two dolls. I couldn't afford the real Barbie dolls so I bought them each a cheaper plastic doll. They were very happy and they didn't even care that it wasn't a real Barbie. After I paid for the dolls, my sisters wanted ice cream so I proceeded to buy them one ice cream cone each.  The lady at the register made one cone and handed it over to my sister Rasmee. She gobbled it up fast. Then the lady made one for Song. She ate it very slow as if she didn't want it to come to an end. As the lady was about to make my ice cream cone, I asked her how much it would cost. She told me it would be $2.25 but I didn't have enough money. I only had $1.50 in my hands and so it was only enough to cover two ice cream cones. I paid her all the money I had which meant I did not get an ice cream cone and I had no quarter to call my dad. The lady made me feel very bad that I had no money so why did I want an ice cream cone. I wanted to cry but my heart was frozen I didn't know how to react. I was embarassed and terrified.

That was one of the saddest days of my life. I miscalculated how much money I had. I attempted to buy something I could not afford. I felt so very poor. I was penniless. First time in my life that I ever felt powerless in that moment when I couldn't pay for something I had really wanted. There was no way I could call my dad. I stood in the store and I was afraid to ask for help. I knew it would eventually get late and so I decided to take my sisters and walk home. I thought about waiting in the store to see if my dad would eventually come pick us up but I felt so ashamed to stay there.

I had never walked that far before but I did know my way home. I held each of their hands and walked out of the store. I remembered the bus route and so I proceeded to take them and we walked home.  We walked up hill, down hill, under a bridge, crossed over a river, and eventually made it home. It was the longest walk ever in my life. It was also a chilly day and we were cold.  I was afraid but there was only one way to go and that was to get home. Every car that passed by us, I wished it was my dad's car but it wasn't.

When we made it home I got yelled at by my mom. She was mad we walked home alone. My dad knew I was shaking and scared. My sister Rasmee was so happy and so proud she showed off her doll to my mom and even told her that I bought them both ice cream cones. Then Song told my mom that I didn't get one. 

My mom asked me how I spent my money and I said I used it all so I didn't have a quarter for the phone call. I felt really bad inside, scared, dirt poor, moneyless, worthless, empty, foolish, and made some pretty bad decisions. 

But all the while in the background was my sister Song and Rasmee so happy and playing with their dolls. Rasmee said it was the sweetest ice cream she'd ever had.  Indeed it was the sweetest ice cream I ever had too. I never got to taste it but seeing the happiness in their faces was the sweetest first in my life. 

This story still makes me cry when I tell it.  There's a reason why I love ice cream. It reminds me of my love for my sisters. 

I google mapped the route that we walked it. It was 3 miles.



I read your story and I am so touched. I don't even have the words to describe how I feel. I'm sad, relieved, and happy all at the same time. I don't know if those were the simple days as it was common or I guess safer for children to be unsupervised, but at the same time being dirt poor doesn't make life simpler. I'm thankful you shared your story. You have such a big heart.

Thank you Gao. *sniffs* I wanted to share this memory with others and hopefully it will give you a glimpse into the footsteps I've taken. 

I love reading stories about foods that touch the soul and how? Your love for your sisters is so big and inspiring! Thanks for sharing!

I'm combing through your website looking for recipes of things I, a non-cook, can make for my grandfather's funeral and stumbled upon this story. It touched my heart so much and I cried for you and a little for me because I have an older sister like you also. You are a good sister and I'm sure your sisters have felt that love.

(FYI: I plan to try the lotus flower blossom.)

Thank you for doing what you do. It's noted, helpful and appreciated.

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