He spoons his Rum Raisin, and I focus on how I can keep my Mint Chocolate Chip from spilling off its sugar cone and onto my white tee shirt. It’s around noon on a Sunday in June, and my husband and I are eating our homemade ice cream from the Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen. My feet are pounding and need to cool off. I was on them for about three hours, looking at antiques, before we settled down on this bench. Now they’re dangling in mid-air like Lily Tomlin’s on that chair.
I have heard it said that the Candy Kitchen is a “time machine” for the town of Bridgehampton, and make no mistake, some of my most special memories have taken place over a scoop of ice cream.
My grandparents lived above a funeral parlor. When we would visit on Sundays, I would see my grandfather doing paperwork in the office and talking to sad people. When he was done working, he would walk up two flights of stairs to his apartment where we were waiting to have my grandmother’s traditional dinner which was always some form of pasta with garden salad and Italian bread. Afterwards, Grandpa Marty, with his coins jingling in his pockets, walked my brother and me across Grand Avenue in Maspeth to Carvel. We inhaled the freezing air and carefully selected our flavors. There was that one summer in the early 70’s that we almost collected the plastic baseball caps of every baseball team in the major league.
When we were back home in our Astoria neighborhood, on special occasions, my dad would walk me around the corner to a soda shop. We would sit high up on the vinyl stools and spin like an old 45 as the counter person made a New York Egg Cream for my dad and a Black and White for me. I felt so grown-up.
Ice cream has a way of making us feel grown-up when we are kids and like kids when we are grown-up.
So here I sit, some decades later, with my husband. Our homemade ice cream enchants us. I start to think about the 18th century ivory miniature with the painting of the girl holding a book that I spotted earlier at the antique show.
“Get it,” he says.
“It’s too much money. What am I going to do with it?
“Buy it, Deb.”
“I am just fascinated by how people carried their loved ones with them years ago…miniature paintings that fit into a pocket.”
As we wonder about whether this trip out east is going to cost us big time, we watch the cars crawl by on Main Street. A green bus approaches us curb side, blocks our view for a few seconds, and then stops about three feet away. Its doors open like the stomach of a shark and pour its insides out: backpacks, straw hats, sunglasses, silver totes, suitcases, cameras, and cell phones. They belong to about thirty people who shared a journey to here from somewhere. Who knows what they carry in their hearts. Most of them dispersed within minutes with a real sense of direction. Except for one.
A woman of middle age asks me to scoot over, closer to my husband.
Her red lips lined into perfection say, “Hi. Where can I get a cab?”
“You can’t hail a cab here,” my husband says.
“What do I do? I just flew in from Chicago, and my friend told me to take the Jitney. She lives in East Hampton.”
“You can call a car service,” my husband says.
“Do you know one?”
“No,” we answer in unison.
“Where are you from?”
“Long Island,” I say, “but we live about 45 minutes west of here. We drive.”
“Oh,” she says, “I’m not used to this.” She clenches the retractable handle of her black carry-on suitcase. Then she proceeds to shuffle through her pocketbook.
“I don’t even know the name of one car service company out here. I’m sorry,” I say in between licks of mint chocolate chip.
We grin. Her two layers of foundation and her blackest black mascara are not melting. Sweat beads work their way down my forehead and stick to the fly-aways from my do-it-yourself hairdo – you know the style – that messy, come-what-may, celebrity incognito look. Maybe I should have worn a hat. Hers is black. Her whole outfit is black. Maybe that’s why the sun seems to be beating down more on our little corner of the world. She looks like she is ready for dinner – out, at a fancy restaurant near Lincoln Center.
“We came for the antiques,” and I point across the street to the field containing hundreds of white tents. “That’s the Bridgehampton Historical Society’s Antique Show.”
“Oh, I’d like to go there with my friend. She has a home in East Hampton. Do they have good stuff?”
“Yes, if you’re into antiquing, you will love it.”
I tell her about some of the things they have: vintage pocketbooks, perfume ads, cameos, salt and pepper shakers, rocking chairs, and ivory painting miniatures.
My husband joins in, “And baseball memorabilia.”
I start to think about those baseball plastic hats that my brother and I collected. That’s when our new friend chimes in, “It’s making me think of my grandparents.”
“Funny,” I say, “This ice cream is doing just that for me.”
“I have to call my friend,” she says.
“Tell her what bench you are sitting on.”
“Where is this?”
We turn around and look for the sign. My Greek husband notes, “Hmmm. A Greek name.”
“It’s George Starvropoulos Way.”
“Thanks a lot. Nice talking to you,” she says.
“Enjoy your vacation.”
“You do the same.”
“Oh, we will.”
We never did go back and buy the ivory portrait miniature. The ice cream was enough.