Goodness, a whole week without having posted. For awhile there, I felt as if I was shooting for a whole year. Anyway, “back to our sheep,” as I’m told they say in Russia:
“What is the best thing you ever had for dessert?”
Let’s see, I’m in my seventh decade of life, and the question is, what is the very best dessert I’ve ever had?! Scanning…scanning…scanning (back over 60+ years)… Got it. Believe it or not.
A banana split.
Nobody in my mother’s family was very demonstrative, but her older sister was especially close to my mother and to all us kids. Mind you, I’m sure my brothers would have been very happy to have her farther away: She lived around the corner from us when I was growing up, and my mother babysat her kids while my aunt went out to work, so on the rare occasions when my mother needed a babysitter, Aunt Mary was It. And when it came to concocting scenarios of disaster, Aunt Mary had an imagination that made the legendary Jewish Mother look like a rank amateur. My brothers still talk about the day she tied them into chairs – I find that hard to believe, but it is just possible, considering that my aunt’s explanation was that she was afraid Something Would Happen to Them.
I myself never experienced this side of her personality. On the other hand, I could be relied upon to disappear into my cousin’s bedroom and not come out till it was time to come home, due to the fact that my cousin, her older son, had the largest collection of comic books in our entire town. I think he had a charter subscription to Mad Magazine.
Anyway, back to dessert. When I was sixteen, I met my aunt on the main street of town for a reason long lost to the mists of Time, and she invited me into a local candy store for a banana split. I had heard of these concoctions, but had never had one; they were expensive treats, and I had more important uses for my allowance, like books and classical-music records, which were also expensive. So I said I’d love to, more out of curiosity than for any other reason.
WOW. That’s all I can say about it, just – WOW. All that whipped cream! All that ice cream!! Bananas, and a cherry atop each peak of whipped cream!!! And I didn’t even have to share it; my aunt bought one for herself, and a whole ‘nother one just for me. If I had been hit by a car on the way home, I’d have died a happy girl: I’d finally had the famous, infamously caloric, legendary Banana Split.
I had one other banana split in my lifetime, interestingly also in my aunt’s company, and I was somewhere in my forties at the time. My girlish figure was long gone, due not to an excess of banana splits but to early-onset menopause, and I probably should not have been indulging. But my mother, my aunt, and I had gone out to lunch, my aunt had seen it on the menu and pounced – it turned out it was her favorite dessert – and as she did so, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t enjoyed that treat since that long-ago winter day when I was 16, so I joined her. And it was just as good the second time around.
I haven’t had one since. At this point in my life, I doubt my elderly insides would be able to handle all that richness. But the memory of that slushy winter day, all holed up in a candy store on the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and 78th Street, with my favorite relative, spooning up a banana split all to myself – that still stands out as the best dessert I ever had.