When I was a young boy, my parents gave me an allowance of 25¢ per week. For this staggering amount of money, I was expected to do certain chores around the house. I remember I was in charge of the garbage, emptying the various receptacles and making sure the pails got out to the street every Tuesday and Thursday. After school, the empty pails waited for me to bring them back to their spot by the garage. We were a family of seven. We produced a lot of garbage. I mowed the law, raked the leaves, and shoveled the snow.
For many years, our chores were separated along gender lines. The boys did the physical, outdoorsy work and the girls did laundry, dishes and house cleaning. At some point, even though we were not a liberal household by any means, women’s liberation gained a foothold inside our little chauvinistic fiefdom. Funny thing though, I suddenly found myself doing dishes and vacuuming, but nobody was helping me with the garbage. We all became in charge of our own laundry. My own experience with women’s lib was it made my life more difficult.
This is all to say I did a lot for very little money and that quarter meant a lot to me. We weren’t poor exactly, but there weren’t a lot of extras either. We had 3 square meals a day, but meals got stretched pretty thin sometimes. There was no fancy cereal, no soda, and no desserts. Don’t cry for me, please. I had a quarter each week. With that quarter, I was able to go around the corner, where there were several little businesses, including a candy store and a luncheonette. The candy store sold hostess pies and the luncheonette sold ice cream cones. I could get a hostess pie each week, if I liked. They were 25¢ each. Or I could save my allowance for two weeks and get an ice cream cone. These were real ice cream cones, scooped out of big 5 gallon tubs inside the aluminum ice boxes with the hinged lids on top. I can still hear the ‘thunk’ sound of the lid opening. They had two flavors in that freezer: chocolate and vanilla. I always had chocolate, always. And frankly, I looked down on those who chose vanilla, because they were too timid to enjoy the exoticness of chocolate.
Then, like women’s lib, another macro factor crushed my micro world. Inflation. It seemed overnight everything doubled in price or in the case of the delicious hostess pies (which were only meant for one person to begin with), halved in size. The pies were no longer satisfying and the cones were out of my price range, but it didn’t matter anyway. My allowance was taken away. Things got tight at the now women’s liberated fiefdom.
One day, a few months after the allowance cessation, my father said, “Son, I’m going to take you to see the NY Giants play at the Yale Bowl in Connecticut. My boss gave me tickets.” Now he might have said we were going to see a hurling match in Scotland for all I understood. You could not have possibly found a boy less interested in sports or less knowledgeable about geography than me. I knew the general rules of wiffle ball and I could navigate approximately a mile in any direction around me. I never understood why he took me. Both of my brothers would have been better candidates.
The trip seemed interminable. We went over the Tappan Zee Bridge and into a state other than the one I lived in or New York. It was all too much. The game was a spectacle and I enjoyed the roar of the crowd, but I really had little idea of what was happening on the field. Who had the football? Did our team win? Did we lose? I had no idea.
On the way back though, my father did something else surprising. He stopped at a Baskin Robbins. He lead me in and showed me the list of flavors on the wall. 34 flavors to be exact (when you include chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry). It was more than this boy could fathom. I asked politely for a chocolate. My father, flabbergasted, said no, choose again. Ok I’ll have a chocolate chocolate chip, please. My father literally said, Arghh! I looked that list up and down for what must’ve seemed like forever and lighted upon mint chocolate chip. It was a shade of green not found in the natural world, dotted with small specks of chocolate. Oh, that was something new on my tongue. There was still the safety of chocolate, but so much more. It’s been my go to flavor ever since. I can barely remember the drive or the game, but I’ll always remember that cone and getting out of my comfort zone. Some 43 odd years later, I’d face too many choices again.
And, besides mint chip ice cream, didn’t the ’70s suck?
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