The humidity was thick and clung to my skin, pink from too much sun.
My golden hair hung down my back, the undermost strands stuck to my skin, trapped in the baby fat folds of my neck.
Humid, sticky summer afternoons meant Fla-Vor-Ice pops.
There was a ritual to it, one that defined the summers of my early childhood.
We waited while my mother took a kitchen knife and sliced of the top quarter of an inch of each pop. We ate those hard, fruity bits there in the dark, cool refuge of the kitchen.
We would then run outside, thanks yous floating over our shoulders, where we would lay our two Flo-Vor-Ice pops on our sun-washed brown front steps, open end resting on the door jamb to prevent spilling, certain that they would melt faster in the full sun. My mother allowed us two each. I always chose red, the other purple, sometimes green. We never called them by their flavors, cherry, grape, lime.
We would lay them out and desperately try to wait to eat them. Our routine never varied…we would eat our second-favorite first, letting the other soften to near-slush consistency. They would glisten in the intense sunshine as the frost would begin to thaw, first where our fingertips had held them, then around the edges.
We were never terribly patient, which meant that the first pop was fairly firm, with just a tiny bit of the juice left to sip at the end. We would upend the long tubes, draining every last drop of sugary, syrupy sweetness into our mouths.
Then we would wait, poking at the remaining pops, willing them to soften. We’d press our fingers against them, testing them for give. Then we’d flip them over and try to distract ourselves, allowing them time to soften.
When our pops were finally squishy enough, they were slushy and slid across our tongues, into our cheeks, and down our throats. Anticipated for so long, yet gone in seconds.
My memories of waiting and willing those Fla-Vor-Ice pops to soften are some of the happiest of my childhood.
Pure childhood joy.
I still buy a box of Fla-Vor-Ice pops every summer, so eager to recapture that innocent joy of childhood. I eat no more than four or five of them and the rest just sit until the next summer, when I replace them with my new box.
Just a glimpse of the red, purple, and green pops in the freezer takes me back to those long, humid, summer afternoons where our biggest concern was whether or not our pops were squishy enough to eat.
The meaning is no longer in the pop itself, but in the vivid memory of my mother in the kitchen, the anticipation of the pop, and in the savoring of every moment.