I come from a big family. By that, I mean growing up as the eldest of 4, with two helpers and parents who tried to be around us as often as possible. Something was always cooking in the kitchen, sounds of children playing, ESPN in the background, musical instruments being butchered, dogs barking, kettle whistling, water splashing about in the pool with subsequent crying in the background. The acoustics of our family. I loved it. For us kids, everything was tackled with team spirit. Even the chores became a fun activity – a competition and a race to the finish. We did everything together; had our meals together on an actual dining table, sang nursery rhymes to cassette tapes, watched movies on laser-discs, got up to mischief in the playroom. Heck, we even showered together!
I don’t quite remember when Dad decided that Thursdays would be ice-cream day at Swensons, a neighborhood ice cream parlor we’d come to love. It started out of the blue after dinner one day, and from then on, it became a family tradition. After dinner on Thursdays, we would all wait patiently for Dad by the front door. Dad would pack us into the family van, drive 5 minutes down the road and let us order whatever we wanted. A 3 scoop banana split for a then 9 year old did not cause him concern, and that was what I loved about it, not having to defend my gluttony. I recall distinctively skipping home every Thursday with a smile on my face, just thinking about it. No one ever said no to Thursdays at Swensons.
Up till one fateful day, we got robbed at knifepoint in our own home. Three men with face masks barged into the house, the kids, grandma, my parents, 2 helpers and 2 drivers were huddled into the living room while they ransacked the house and wiped us clean. It was traumatizing. That fateful day happened to fall on a Thursday, and because it stirred up such bad memories for everyone, we never spoke of Thursdays at Swensons again.
Twenty over years later, I still remember our little tradition, every time I sink my teeth into a cold bite of ice cream. Of course, things are a lot different now. The family is scattered miles apart, distracted by our own daily scrambles. We hardly hear from each other, let alone come together on a regular basis. During the rare occasion when we would somehow, due to serendipity, sit around the same table over dinner in the same time zone and continent, we’re electronically tethered deep into our devices. Even when I manage to corral the whole clan together for some quality time (by force or guilt), someone would resent it, have other plans or be too exhausted from a late night to be part of it.
I wonder if anyone else in the family misses Thursdays at Swensons, the way I do.