Pittsburgh dad's special scoop represents a treat as rich as ice cream

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A clean-out fever sometimes strikes my mom. Over the years, I have trained her to wait a tick before tossing or donating, to give me a chance to peruse and scavenge.

But if I saved nothing else over the years, I am glad I got my hands on a treasured ice cream scoop before it disappeared.

This is the ice cream scoop my dad used when we were kids. (Dad is fine by the way; he just got a new scoop.) It's the one he used when he'd make us special sundaes or ice cream cones.

It was an event that made us happy, in part, because, well, it was ice cream, but also because serving ice cream was something my dad got such a kick out of. He'd put joy and creativity into the effort. And he had a system.

I can picture it, clear as day. My dad would be standing at the kitchen counter, looking down at me and smiling. He'd fill a small cup with warm tap water and dip the scoop in the water before digging into the ice cream, explaining, teaching, sharing a secret -- that dip in the water beforehand makes it easier to scoop.

Dad making ice cream sundaes or serving up ice cream cones has always been a tradition in our home in Shaler, and everybody who has ever visited has had at least one of them.

There was a time when Bard's, an ice cream shop up the street, went up for sale, and there was talk in the house that maybe he should take it over. I was much too young to understand about the importance of having a steady job or being the breadwinner or the risks of small business, but it made me sad that he didn't get to serve ice cream for a living.

Even very young humans are astute enough to recognize the things that make other people happy and to feel there's something a little sad -- even if we don't yet know the words regret or sacrifice or their meanings -- about being a grown-up who can't just do whatever gives you the most pleasure.

Flash forward to me as an adult. Thinking of this same ice cream scoop reminds me of when my nephew Alex (now a 6-foot-something 16-year-old) was tiny. My brother was in the Navy and his family was in town for a rare visit. We gathered at my parents' house. It was the first time I'd been around Alex that he could talk and walk. He was about 3 years old.

I walked from the dining room to the kitchen with a promise of getting him some ice cream. He came dashing in behind me, saying, "Wait! Wait! I have to tell you something." I was at the kitchen counter, holding this very same scoop, looking down at him, smiling.

My nephew told me to get a cup of water. He told me that if I dipped the scoop in the water, the ice cream would be easier to scoop. He added, oh-so-proudly, "That's how my dad does it."

It was one of my favorite sweet, funny circle-of-life moments.

So, yeah, things are just things. But some things -- including unremarkable, everyday things -- are more than utilitarian. They are memory triggers.

Every time I use this scoop or even just see it in the utensil drawer, I feel a little jolt of happiness. I also feel a bit covetous and secretly lucky to be the kid who stayed in Pittsburgh and got the best hand-me-downs.

And that is my rationalization for remaining here long after I could make my own sundaes, as well as for eating dessert in the middle of the day. Sometimes, winter doldrums and grown-up worries are easier to bear if you eat a little ice cream on a Wednesday.

Beth Schmidt of Overbrook can be reached at bdq33@comcast.net.

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