“Never too old for ice cream! Never!” The thought hits me as I lean against the red brick wall, outside the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, cone in hand; enjoying a waffle cone filled with bourbon burnt sugar ice cream.
How could I ask for a better setting? A warm spring day, the charm of an urban market – yet I feel oddly self-conscious, as if I had worn a pair of jeans to the beach. A drop of melted cream falls on my shoe. There’s a small hole, which I discover by carefully turning the cone in my hand. This is a sign to lick faster, stop thinking, and start eating.
“I’m so outta practice,” I think to myself. “A cup would have been smarter, but it’s more fun trying to eat it all before the whole thing melts.” To my left, a t-shirt vendor has two folding tables filled with bric-a-brac, a mélange of t-shirts and other goods on display flea-market style. A few words drift my way – he’s chatting with two ladies – they all seem to know each other.
My ice cream cone has finally taken on the familiar, smooth conical shape, and the sight brings a smile to my face. “I’m too old for ice cream.” Why does it nag me so? “Look around… who cares!” Cars come in and out of the parking lot as people come to the market, while others leave with their purchases.
“Too old to be eating ice cream alone.” A wry smile sneaks across my face, and at that moment something clicks. My self-conscious thoughts spurred by my proximity to a group of girls in their early twenties. Two were comfortably seated on the concrete floor, backs against the wall, legs folded Indian style while the other two stood in a semi-circle. With their smooth skin, long flowing hair, slippers and colorful tank tops, they had the easy demeanor of college girls reveling in a warm spring day. Georgia State University is a few blocks away from the Auburn Curb Market, an easy walk for students with time to kill between classes. They looked like they were about to have lunch, probably outside waiting for friends to show up.
There’s a satisfying crunch from the last of the sweet wafer cone and I savor the moment as their idle chatter about boyfriends and fashion continues on and on. Suddenly the question of age comes up and their conversation rapidly dissolves into spurts and starts punctuated by coy silence.
“I’m too old to be listening to this.” Each girl looks around while waiting for the other to divulge her age. The oldest was 24 and the youngest 19, which brought my own age into sharp perspective. I should be counting calories, worrying about carbohydrates and lack of exercise. I have a few gray hairs now, and I would never sit on the floor – even in a pair of old pants. I tune into NPR radio on my way to work and I drink way too much coffee. But that’s my life, and I’m pretty ok with it. So I had two scoops of ice cream today and enjoyed every last drop. It’s time to go home, and I take out the keys to my car. I think about my four young friends. I hope that after lunch, on their way out, they’ll stop by High Road Ice Cream, choose a flavor, and ask for a cone like I did. It will be cold, sweet, creamy, guilt-free and deeply satisfying – like it’s supposed to be – because you’re never, ever, too old for ice cream.