My mom let me go. I'm not sure I would have had I been the mother. I was so young crossing that road--a major highway, semis sped down. But Mom let me go knowing it was a child's rite of passage. I never remember her taking me. I do remember her calling, "Be careful crossing the road."
I headed to a white building with a sign that read: 'Hav-A-Keen Lunch'. Keen was like cool, back then. The business--a mom and pop truck stop--was shared by the Havards and the Keens, hence the name.
A bell rang when the screen door slammed shut behind me.
Sometimes she popped out of the back, where she lived. Sometimes she was wiping the counter. She always greeted me with a smile.
"Hi, Mrs. Havakeen."
Maybe she tried to correct me. Maybe she said, "Just call me Mrs. Keen." Maybe she added a dear to show me she wasn't mad. I don't remember. I do remember her asking, "What'll you have?"
I dumped a handful of coins on the counter--pennies, dimes, nickels, and a quarter. "What will this buy?"
"A chocolate bar, pop, an ice cream cone..."
"A rainbow ice cream cone, please," I said spring, summer, fall--never winter, the road was too slippery.
Mrs. Keen dipped the spoon in a bucket of water and then into the pail. A large box with a child holding a triple scoop cone hung on the wall. She pulled a cone from the box, filled it with ice cream and handed it to me.
Rainbow ice cream: swirls of chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and mint. Why choose one favour when you can have them all? Rainbow. It was like eating a better tomorrow.
I always made it home safe and sound. Sometimes with rainbow ice cream dripping down my arm--melting under the hot sun.
Did Mrs. Keen know how important she was to me? Did she know how special she made me feel? I like to think she did.
This short story was inspired by something my husband found. Here's what my husband found: link
Next post: Published on Sunday, November 26th at approximately 5 PM
Interview with children's picture book author Maxine Sylvester