Sweet red strawberries poured over melting Hershey's vanilla bean ice cream, scooped up with a big spoon and shoveled into one's mouth without restraint, is summer's rendition of heaven.
I'm four years old. The day is hot and muggy, the sun high in the summer afternoon. I have had a cooling bath and I know the tables have been set up and the festival has begun. As I hurry across the macadm playground I stumble and fall, scraping my knee badly, the wound filled with tiny bits of gravel. The palms of my hands are scuffed, too, and hurt enough to make me cry. I was all clean and now I'm dirty, which adds to the pain.
Someone behind me lifts me off the ground, takes me back into the main building and hands me over to Matron. She has most of my care in the orphanage and knows how to soothe me. She cleans my small wounds and paints them with mercurochrome....ouch! that stings!...wipes my tear stained face, pats my bottom and sends me back outside. I walk carefully toward the strawberries and ice cream.
"Barbarann, honey, would you like some ice cream and berries?"
"Yes, please!" I say, and she fills a bowl and hands me a spoon. I thank her and scoot under the cloth-covered lengths of table laden with huge bowls of strawberries and heavy cardboard containers of vanilla ice cream. It is shady and cooler under there and I sit on the warm black macadam, fold my legs and nestle the bowl in my lap.
The first spoonful of vanilla and berry fills my mouth with sweetness, the berries bursting against my tongue, bathed in melted ice cream. I close my eyes in pleasure, happy to be all alone with my treat. I am very careful not to spill on my pinafore, but don't want the ice cream to get all soupy in the summer heat. Still, I eat slowly, making it last. The berries stain the ice cream and my lips as I spoon with a steady rhythym, until the treat is all gone.
I sit there beneath the table for a little while, wondering if my little brother has been given any of this dessert. I see the shoes passing by me as other children stand in line for ice cream and strawberries. The table cloth nearly skims the ground. Before long, all the children have taken their dessert elsewhere, beneath the sheltered picnic tables, or under the porch overhang. It is quiet as I sit there, content. The table cloth is lifted; a curly headed older girl peers at me.
"Barbarann, would you like some more? Hand me your bowl; you keep the spoon!"
Shortly, she reappears with a full bowl for me. I can't believe I can have seconds. I get busy with my spoon, digging into the cold ice cream and the syrupy strawberries. This is all mine, not be shared with anyone, unheard of here, where all things belong to everyone, even our treats. My eyes glaze over, my tummy is full, and I feel complete contentment. I have been here since January 20th. Today is August 13th. It is my birthday. I miss my mother badly. My younger brother has recently arrived to live here with me. I have felt very lonely for a long time now. But with berries and ice cream, things are looking up!