One day last week the weatherman at my local television station reported the day’s heat index as 117 degrees.
Earlier that afternoon I had been running errands for my wife. My children were with me. One of our errands placed us near Kamper Park in my hometown of Hattiesburg. As a child I spent countless days in that park during the summer months. Funny thing, I don’t ever remember being too hot. Running, swinging, sliding, and jumping in the Mississippi heat with more energy than I’ll ever know again never slowed me down, the temperature outside never mattered.
However, last week’s heat slowed my pace considerably. Maybe it was age. I was certainly feeling all of my 44 years, maybe more.
As we drove down the road that led to the park, I showed my children— a nine-year old girl and a five-year old boy— the place where I ate ice cream as a child. It was an ice cream parlor owned by the Seale-Lily Ice Cream Company.
The “Seale-Lily” as it was known around town, was a soda fountain of the standard 1950s/1960s variety, which served ice cream in bowls and cones, sundaes, splits, milk shakes and light sandwiches. I held the place in high regard.
At the Seale-Lily I only ate pineapple sherbet. It was my favorite then and it is my favorite today, when I can find it. When making homemade ice cream, my family usually prepared vanilla or peach. To me, homemade peach ice cream tastes like summer, but pineapple sherbet tastes like my youth.
I am not sure what it was about pineapple sherbet that steered me away from the typical childhood choices of chocolate and strawberry. It has only occurred to me as I write this column that pineapple sherbet might be a strange choice for a kid.
Today a liquor store occupies the space where the employees of the Seale-Lily scooped thousands of cones.
My children asked about the Seale-Lily and wanted to know if there was a place in town that served pineapple sherbet. Hattiesburg has several ice cream shops which offer excellent gourmet ice creams, varieties in every color and flavor, places where exotic candies and fresh fruits are mixed by hand to one’s selection. I am a regular at The Marble Slab Creamery and my waistline is a testament to those visits. However, I couldn’t think of one place that serves pineapple sherbet.
At 44, I might not be as active as I was at six years old, but I am much more resourceful. After thinking for a minute, I walked over to the Sunflower grocery store that anchors the shopping center that housed the Seale-Lily and bought a quart of pineapple sherbet and a box of hard-plastic spoons.
I drove my children next door to the park and took them to the giant gazebo that has been there as long as I have been alive. We sat at a picnic table in the sweltering August heat, no cones, no air conditioning, no worries, and ate pineapple sherbet straight out of the box.
In an instant I forgot about the heat. I watched as my children ate with abandon and wondered if one day they would tell their kids about the joys of pineapple sherbet in the hot Mississippi heat.
Do yourself a favor, today; buy your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, or friend some ice cream. Whether it’s in a cone or straight out of the box, you’ll be making memories for you and them. Pineapple sherbet or not, you’re likely to forget about the heat and humidity, but you’ll never forget the joy of eating ice cream with a child.