Donna Stramella is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Baltimore, Maryland who recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Tampa . Her work has been published in Columbia Magazine and The Baltimore Sun. She breaks away from her writing room to travel, hike and listen to live music.
UNCLE GEORGE AND THE ICE CREAM
We all knew Uncle George liked ice cream. He couldn’t pass a soda shop, ice cream truck or corner convenience store with a “hand-dipped” sign in the window. He was obsessed with it, really.
One summer, he and my Aunt Gia were visiting from Pennsylvania on a sweltering summer day in Maryland. There was no air conditioning in the small Cape Cod-style house where I lived with my parents and two brothers in the late 1950s. It was late afternoon, with everyone crowded in the sterile white kitchen drinking well-iced, well-sugared tea, the window fan circulating warm air around the room when George pushed the flimsy screen door open for the quarter-mile walk to our small neighborhood grocery store.
When he returned, he pulled a half-gallon of strawberry ice cream from the paper bag, opened a few drawers to find a spoon and sat down at the table. If he saw three little hopeful faces across the table, he blocked us out. Our eyes widened as we stared quietly, Uncle George slowly dipping his spoon in the cardboard tub, the ice cream soft from the short walk back to the house. His glasses temporarily frosted as the coolness rose, the corners of his mouth turned up slightly as he closed his eyes—seeming to savor the flavor as well as the temperature.
“You’re not going to offer the ice cream to anyone else?” Aunt Gia asked, waiving her hands in the air. “You’re going to eat the whole thing all by yourself?”
Her husband didn’t say a word, continuing his slow rhythm, dipping the spoon in the cold ice cream and then into his mouth, dipping and eating, dipping and eating. Embarrassed and angry, his wife stormed out of the room.
My brothers and I remained quiet. There was a chance that at any moment, our uncle would rise from his chair to find three spoons. A stream of pink ice cream eased down from the corner of his mouth. He reached up with his left index finger to mop it up, closing his eyes as he placed his finger over his tongue to enjoy a nearly-lost drop. A satisfied warden whose escapee was back in the cell.
We continued to stare and he continued to eat, until we heard the metal spoon scraping the cardboard bottom. Uncle George tilted the container to be sure he finished every bit of the now-melted treat. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, threw the carton in the trash can and tossed the spoon in the sink, the metallic sound echoing in the small kitchen.
Uncle George didn’t visit us the next summer. Or any other summer. He and Aunt Gia divorced after just three years of marriage.
Fifty years later, my 90-year-old Sicilian mother tells the story once every couple of years. And each time, she begins the same way.
“That son-of-a-bitch ate all the ice cream…”
Greg Stidham is a retired pediatric intensivist (ICU physician) currently living in Kingston, Ontario, with his wife Pam and their two foundling "canine kids." Greg's passion for medicine had yielded in retirement to his other lifelong passion, literature and creative writing.
BUS RIDE TO MINOT